Facebook CEO Zuckerberg Promises Simpler Privacy Settings

Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged Monday that the social networking site goofed a bit when it came to users' privacy but promised that in the near future the site planned to implement simpler privacy settings.

In an Op-Ed piece to The Washington Post , Zuckerberg acknowledged Facebook's previous blunders but downplayed Facebook's intentions and responsibility regarding users' privacy.

"The biggest message we have heard recently is that people want easier control over their information," Zuckerberg wrote. "Simply put, many of you thought our controls were too complex. Our intention was to give you lot of granular controls; but that may not have been what many of you wanted. We just missed the mark."

Zuckerberg said that in the coming weeks, the social networking site will implement simpler privacy controls while giving users an easy way to disconnect from all third-party services.

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"We are working hard to make these changes available as soon as possible. We hope you'll be pleased with the result of our work, and as always, we'll be eager to get your feedback," he said.

In addition, Zuckerberg attempted to reassure users that the site doesn’t give advertisers access to users' personal information or sell it to third parties.

The changes and lofty reassurances come in response to a firestorm of criticism in recent months regarding Facebook's evolving stance on privacy from Congressional legislators, watchdog organizations, Europe's Article 29 Working Party and the European Union -- the latter of which called Facebook's revamped privacy policies "unacceptable" by violating previous agreements made during an EU meeting in November. The heated backlash subsequently prompted Facebook to hold an "all hands on deck" meeting regarding its privacy policies earlier this month.

But the public outcry regarding the site's privacy faux pas has been gaining a critical mass over the last six months or so. In April, Zuckerberg discussed implementing an "open graph" at the company's annual f8 developer conference that would connect individuals to Facebook through third-party sites.

Last year the social networking site implemented an "instant personalization" feature which linked users "interests" and "activities" listed on their profile to related Web sites, and exposed users' profile information to sites such as Yelp and Pandora, without their consent.

Prior to that, Facebook privacy adjustments entailed a new "everyone" setting, which exposed users' status updates and profile data with the entirety of the Internet, including search engines such as Google and Microsoft's Bing by default.

Next: Users Need To Use Caution

Despite Facebook's promises to do better, channel partners recommend that users should maintain healthy amount of caution when posting personal information online, and not rely too heavily on Facebook's impending privacy changes to ensure that personal photos and information aren't leaked to the rest of the Internet.

"If you wouldn't send it on an email or mention it to somebody in a public forum then don't put it on Facebook," said Stuart Crawford, senior adviser and partner with Ulistic Internet Consultants, based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada "The onus still comes back on the individual. People are posting things that should never be posted. But Facebook has to take a little bit of responsibility in making the process simple. The average Facebook user is not an IT pro or security specialist. There needs to be a simple toggle switch -- on or off."

However, Crawford contended that despite the strong public outcry on its privacy policies, Facebook will likely not suffer huge market share losses.

"Microsoft was the whipping boy on security and privacy, and they held marketshare and continue to hold marketshare," he said. "As these new entities start to emerge, some of the attention will be diverted the Facebook's of the world. There will be people poking holes in what you have. I think that's what we're seeing here."