Open Letter Urges Facebook to Strengthen Privacy

facebook tops list of most searched u s companies logo

After several failures, online social networking service Facebook actually seems to have understood that many of its users have significant concerns about their online privacy and the way in which information they upload to Facebook is shared with the public, application developers, advertisers, and other sites. Facebook recently bent over backwards to rework its privacy controls into a simpler configuration users could more easily understand and manage…but a group of consumer advocacy groups thinks Facebook could go further, and sent Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg an open letter (PDF) detailing their specific concerns. And, surprisingly, Facebook has responded point-by-point.

The open letter asks Facebook to take six concrete steps to further shore up its privacy stance:

  1. Give users capability to decide what third-party Facebook apps can access their personal information
  2. Make Facebook’s instant personalization of third-party partner sites opt-in by default
  3. Do not retain data about visitors to third-party sites using Facebook social plug-ins or Like buttons unless visitors specifically interact with those tools
  4. Provide users control over all information shared via Facebook, including the shared-by-default items like name, gender, profile picture, and networks
  5. Protect all interactions with the Facebook site from third-party man-in-the-middle attacks by encrypting them using SSL
  6. Provide tools for users to export content they’ve uploaded to Facebook and details of their social network so they can opt out of Facebook without losing their information.

The open letter is signed by a number of notable privacy and consumer advocate groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, Center for Democracy and Technology, Center for Digital Democracy, Consumer Action, Consumer Watchdog, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Electronic Privacy Information Center, Privacy Activism, Privacy Lives, and Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.

Facebook’s point-by-point response basically boils down to:

  1. Facebook has already announced a new permissions model for apps, and it should be rolling out to developers soon
  2. Facebook says instant personalization is misunderstood, and partners only have access to information that’s public on users profiles
  3. Facebok kind of misses the point on not retaining data from third parties using social plug-ins or like buttons, but says it only hangs on to the information for 90 days and doesn’t share or sell it
  4. Facebook doesn’t budge on letting users control whether default profile information gets shared. “It has been our experience that people have a more meaningful experience on Facebook when they share some information about themselves. That way, they can find friends and friends can find them, which is the reason most people come to Facebook.”
  5. Facebook is testing SSL and hopes to add it as an option soon
  6. Facebook also misses the intent of the open letter’s sixth point, saying users can export data they themselves have uploaded to Facebook, but can’t let users export information about others, since doing so would violate those users’ privacy.

What’s interesting about this dialog isn’t so much the specific details—most of this is gobbledegook for anyone who isn’t serious about online privacy—but that the dialog is happening at all, and furthermore that it’s happening rapidly and in a public forum. If nothing else, that speaks well of Facebook’s intentions to be transparent about the ways it is—and plans to—protect its users privacy, as well as the sensitive issues on which it simply will not budge.

Movies & TV

The most anticipated new TV series for 2018 and beyond

From The Righteous Gemstones and George R.R. Martin's Nightflyers to The Twilight Zone and The Lord of the Rings, here are the most anticipated new television series premiering later in 2018, at some point in 2019, and beyond.
Computing

Was your Facebook account hacked in the latest breach? Here’s how to find out

Facebook now reports that its latest data breach affected only 30 million users, down from an initial estimate of 50 million accounts. You can also find out if hackers had accessed your account by visiting a dedicated portal.
Photography

These point-and-shoot cameras make your smartphone pics look like cave paintings

If your smartphone camera just isn't giving you the results you're looking for, maybe it's time to step up your game. The latest and greatest point-and-shoot cameras offer large sensors, tough bodies, and long lenses - something no phone…
Home Theater

These awesome A/V receivers will swarm you with surround sound at any budget

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to shopping for a receiver, so we assembled our favorites for 2018, at multiple price points and all loaded with features, from Dolby Atmos to 4K HDR, and much more.
Computing

Your ‘Do Not Track’ tool might be helping websites track you, study says

New research from the "Do Not Track" features embedded in popular browsers are being ignored, opening up the possibility of consumers having their information targeted by specific ads based on their web histories and cookies. 
Computing

Which is best: The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme or the 15-inch MacBook Pro?

To try and help nail down the best 15-inch laptops in the world, we compared the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme vs. MacBook Pro 15 in a head to head that looked at their power, design, and portability.
Product Review

Don't bother with any other 2-in-1. The Surface Pro 6 is still the best

The Surface Pro been updated to its sixth generation, now coming dressed in black and packing a quad-core processor. Outside of that, you’ll have to dig a little deeper to see where Microsoft has made some truly noteworthy improvements.
Computing

Microsoft co-founder, Seahawks owner Paul Allen dies at 65

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen died on October 15 of complications from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The cancer survivor was best known for his entrepreneurial spirit and his frequent contributions to charities.
Computing

How does Microsoft’s newest Surface stack up against the Apple iPad Pro?

In an era where everyone is taking a bite at Apple’s products, we’ve stacked up the 12.9-inch iPad Pro against the latest Surface Pro 6. Check out this comparison guide to see which one gives you more bang for your buck.
Computing

Leaked benchmarks suggest rumored AMD GPU could be king of midrange graphics

AMD's next GPU may not be Navi-based after all. Rumors continue to build about an RX 590 which has now shown up on 3DMark's benchmark database, delivering results that easily outstrip stock clocked GTX 1060s.
Emerging Tech

Curious how A.I. 'brains' work? Here's a super-simple breakdown of deep learning

What is deep learning? A branch of machine learning, this field deals with the creation of neural networks that are modeled after the brain and adept at dealing with large amounts of human-oriented data, like writing and voice commands.
Computing

Qualcomm’s ‘Snapdragon 1000’ could bring octa-cores to Windows laptops

The rumored Qualcomm Snapdragon 1000 CPU may bring the octa-core design of mobiles and tablets to Windows laptops, offering four powerful cores for high performance, and four low-power cores for efficiency.
Computing

Is the new Surface Pro 6 worth the extra money or is the Surface Go good enough?

Each of Microsoft’s Surface devices are great, but with the recent addition of the Surface Pro 6, you might be wondering how it stacks up against the Surface Go. In this comparison piece, we’ve put the two devices up against each other…
Computing

Is the Surface Pro 6 a sidestep, or does it blow away its predecessor?

How good is the new Surface Pro, and is it worth an upgrade? The best way to find out is to pit the Surface Pro 6 vs. Surface Pro 5 in a head to head that tests them both on performance, design, and portability.