Saturday, October 31, 2009

Facebook continues its tightrope walk

Long plagued by issues of digital privacy, Facebook continues to navigate the fine line between protecting its users personal data and maintaining a profitable, ad-based business model. This past week, Facebook tried to appease both sides of the argument – those pesky, privacy-demanding users, and the oh-so attractive big-money advertisers.

In a blog post on the site, Facebook’s vice president of communications and public policy, Austin Haugen announced that the company was making its privacy policy open for review and comment – the same way solicited user feedback on its statement on rights and responsibilities in February.

He said, “Our primary goals remain transparency and readability, which is why we've used plain language and included numerous examples to help illustrate our points.”

According to

The controversy that set the democratic process in motion at the beginning of the year stemmed from concerns that Facebook was asserting perpetual control over its users' information and content, even after they deleted their account.

In response, Facebook has stated unequivocally that users own their own data, and further fleshed out its position on the ownership issue with the privacy policy released today.

Haugen’s blog post continues on with a detailed and straightforward explanation of how user information is used and the differences between deleting and deactivating an account – and the privacy implications with each – as well as how it collects and leverages user data with its online advertising.

And at the same time, Facebook was standing up for the little guy and offering a shade more transparency, simultaneously, it unveiled a “roadmap” for developers and to create and implement applications to tap into the FB user base.

According to MediaPost: Among the key updates in store, Facebook will enable developers to ask for users' primary email address within applications to facilitate direct contact. At the same time, developers will only be able to send notifications and invitations via email, a user's Facebook Inbox or the News Feed and other activity streams.

But Haugen addressed this in his blog post, saying “Keep in mind that applications will never be given your email address unless you explicitly grant them permission, and like other websites you can always choose to unsubscribe if the service is no longer of value.”

Facebook is certainly chasing a moving target, as the web develops and people become more savvy about internet privacy. But it sounds like they’re continuing to walk the tightrope for now.

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