On Pri­vacy. Face­book, Un­der Pres­sure, Gets the Mes­sage

The Economic Times - - Global Business - NYT

Do you know who can see what you are post­ing on Face­book, in­clud­ing your pho­tos, birth­day and per­sonal cell­phone num­ber? Chances are that you don’t. Face­book is wor­ried that you will start shar­ing less - or maybe even move to more anony­mous ser­vices - un­less it helps you bet­ter man­age your pri­vate in­for­ma­tion. On Thurs­day, the com­pany an­nounced that it would give a pri­vacy checkup to ev­ery one of its 1.28 bil­lion users world­wide. Face­book, which is based in Menlo Park, Cal­i­for­nia, will also change how it treats new users by ini­tially set­ting their posts to be seen only by friends. re­vi­ously, those posts were ac­ces­si­ble to any­one. And it will ex­plain to both cur­rent and new users that set­ting their pri­vacy to “pub­lic” means that any­one can see their pho­tos and posts. The change in de­fault set­tings and the per­son-by-per­son re­view is a sharp re­ver­sal for Face­book, whose pri­vacy set­tings are fa­mously com­pli­cated. Some users may be shocked when they see just how widely their per­sonal in­for­ma­tion has been shared. For most of its 10-year his­tory, Face­book has pushed and some­times forced its users to share more in­for­ma­tion more pub­licly, draw­ing fire from cus­tomers, reg­u­la­tors and pri­vacy ad­vo­cates across the globe. That helped make Face­book the world’s largest so­cial net­work and an ad­ver­tis­ing be­he­moth. But the com­pany re­cently con­cluded that its growth de­pended on cus­tomers’ feel­ing more con­fi­dent that they were shar­ing in­ti­mate de­tails of their lives with only the right people. “What we re­ally want is to en­able people to share what they want,” Mark Zucker­berg, Face­book’s co-founder and chief ex­ec­u­tive, said in a re­cent in­ter­view. nd more shar­ing means more growth and more op­por­tu­ni­ties to place ads for Face­book.

“Pri­vate com­mu­ni­ca­tion has al­ways been an im­por­tant part of the pic­ture, and I think it’s in­creas­ingly im­por­tant,” he said. “Any­thing we can do that makes people feel more com­fort­able is re­ally good.”

Nearly 9 in 10 In­ter­net users have taken steps on­line to re­move or mask their dig­i­tal foot­prints, ac­cord­ing to a tele­phone sur­vey of 1,002 U.S. adults in July by the Pew Re­search Cen­ter. Face­book is also feel­ing enor­mous pres­sure from pri­vacy reg­u­la­tors around the world, said Marc Rotenberg, pres­i­dent of the Elec­tronic Pri­vacy In­for­ma­tion Cen­ter, an ad­vo­cacy group. Given Face­book’s his­tory, some people are wary about its lat­est moves.

Zucker­berg has seen the rapid growth of pri­vacy-friendly ser­vices like What­sApp and Snapchat and anony­mous shar­ing apps like Se­cret and Whis­per, which com­pete for the time of many Face­book users, es­pe­cially the younger ones

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