Is 'Facebook And Privacy Page' Just Another Band-Aid?


But Facebook's responses, which have long since become disproportionate to the privacy and security criticism levied at Facebook since last fall, continue to feel like spot fixes -- Band-Aids -- when Facebook could finally silence its critics if it just went all the way.

Late last week came another spot fix. Dubbed the "Facebook and Privacy Page," it provides information on how Facebook users can limit the exposure of their personal information and learn best practices on how to choose settings.

"The Facebook and Privacy Page serves as a living resource and a venue to facilitate an interactive discussion about privacy with all of you," wrote Simon Axten, an associate on Facebook's public policy team, in a company blog post Thursday. "We'll regularly post updates on relevant new content, products and news stories related to online privacy."

Will it be enough? There's no question that Facebook has been keeping privacy issues in the spotlight as of late, at least as much as its harshest critics. Facebook rolled out its official privacy changes in late May, and last week at the D8 conference -- in an exchange that'll be long remembered in the annals of tech industry stage nervousness -- Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg grew noticeably uncomfortable during onstage questioning from the Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg, acknowledging that Facebook's privacy controls had grown unwieldy.

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Neither the privacy changes nor Zuckerberg's comments, however, have done anything to deintensify criticism of Facebook. Privacy watchdogs dismiss the advances as small steps, and Facebook's most vocal critics continue to suggest that Facebook users will only be safer if they can "opt in" rather than "opt out" -- rather, choose what personal information gets shared instead of limit the information that would be otherwise shared.

It might be a comment in Yahoo's Monday release that's most telling. Plenty of companies are marketing against Facebook's privacy issues, including MySpace, which its own simpler privacy settings in a not-so-veiled swipe against its social networking rival. But Yahoo, which since December has worked hard to bring Facebook features into its various platforms, couldn't resist including a note on privacy competency in its Monday statement announcing further Yahoo-Facebook integration .

The privacy critics and "Quit Facebook Day" aren't going to stop the Facebook juggernaut. But Facebook is still missing a big public-relations opportunity to implement more than spot fixes to Facebook's privacy concerns. When your friends are not only tiptoeing around you but also limiting their own exposure to your problems even as they partner with you, you know those problems aren't just going to go away.