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Facebook urged to strengthen privacy protections

Critics call on Facebook to make it easier for users to control their personal data.

June 17, 2010|By Jessica Guynn, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from San Francisco — Facebook continues to face criticism over privacy protections at its social networking website.

Privacy and civil liberties groups on Wednesday urged Facebook to address issues they say violate the privacy of the site's more than 400 million users.

In an open letter to Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg, the groups applauded steps the company has taken to make it easier for users to change privacy settings. But it asked for additional measures, such as allowing users to control all of the information they share on Facebook and making it easier to export their data and easier to quit Facebook. It also asked for Facebook to make the instant personalization pilot program that shares users' publicly available data with select partner sites an "opt-in" feature.

The letter was signed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Center for Digital Democracy and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

"Facebook continues to push its users into more and more public sharing — sharing that it's not at all clear members want or fully understand," said Kevin Bankston, senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "We're calling on Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg to respect their members and give them the information and the tools they need for true control."

Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes said the social network was responding to the concerns.

"We plan to continue to make control easy and effective for all the people who use our service and will continue to engage these groups and others in a constructive dialogue about these important issues," he said in an e-mailed statement.

He also included a detailed response to each of the issues raised by the privacy groups. And he pointed out that Facebook plans to roll out a data permission program in the coming weeks to address remaining concerns.

The letter from advocacy groups arrived in Zuckerberg's in box as attention to the privacy imbroglio seemed to be waning.

jessica.guynn@latimes.com

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