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Facebook Holds All-Hands Privacy Meeting, Adds Security Features

Social networking giant Facebook has been taking it on the chin over privacy issues in recent months: between CEO Mark Zuckerberg declaring online privacy is not a “social norm” to introducing a massively complex set of privacy preferences to rolling out features that enable advertisers and third parties post personal items of Facebook users without their consent to (oops!) accidently disclosing chats and private account information the company hasn’t been making many friends. To address some of these issues, Facebook yesterday held a company-wide meeting to discuss issues of data privacy…and, oddly enough, is being coy about the details, saying that the meeting was “productive” but declining to say whether it plans to change any of its privacy policies as a result.

A Facebook spokesperson would say only that the meeting was consistent with the company’s “open culture,” and was mainly intended to enable employees to ask questions about privacy issues.

Facebook’s recent privacy policy changes and service enhancements have rubbed many users the wrong way…including some rather high profile Facebook users who have cancelled their accounts over Facebook’s newest directions, particularly a feature that enables third party Web sites to pull postings without their permission as a way to make their sites a social experience for Facebook users. Others have cited the sheer complexity of Facebook’s privacy policy and settings: a New York Times piece this week noted that Facebook’s privacy preferences have 50 settings and some 170 options—which is a lot more than a typical user is going to want to take the time to fully understand.

Responding to questions from New York Times readers about Facebook’s approach to privacy, Facebook’s VP for public policy Elliot Schrage basically offered the advice “If you’re not comfortable sharing, don’t.” The question, of course, is whether many Facebook users even understand what information is being shared with others under different circumstances, and whether they understand how to control it.

In the meantime, Facebook has just introduced new security options to give users more control of their logins to the service: users can now approve devices that they use to log in to Facebook and receive a notification if their account is accessed from a non-approved device. Users can also choose to have login attempts from unusual devices be required to answer additional verification questions before the login is permitted.

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