Blog of Rights

We Don't Want Simpler Controls—We Simply Want Control

By Nicole Ozer, Technology & Civil Liberties Policy Director, ACLU of Northern California at 5:11pm

Facebook has been taking heat for its recent privacy-unfriendly practices, from the "privacy transition" that took away privacy controls to "instant personalization" that instantly shares personal information with third party pages without the user's consent. In response, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg published an op-ed in the Washington Post today, claiming that Facebook has "heard the feedback" and now realizes that "people want easier control over their information." But we don't just want simpler settings that limit our choices and force us to share information broadly or not at all—we want real control, and we want it to be the default.

One perfect example of this is third party sharing. Third party applications and websites have access to a huge amount of information about individuals (something we highlighted in our very own Facebook app), including information about people who never even use apps. Over time, Facebook has increased the amount of information these apps and pages can access and taken away some of the few controls users had to prevent this access. And Facebook recently took this one step further with "instant personalization," allowing some websites to access Facebook user information without giving notice to the user first.

Zuckerberg suggests that the solution to this situation is to "give you an easy way to turn off all third-party services." It remains to be seen what he means by that. We hope he means that completely turning off all sharing with third parties will be one of a robust set of privacy options available to users; we fear that it will be the only option, forcing users to choose between sharing lots of information with lots of third parties or sharing none at all. That's not "easier control"—it is easier, but it's not control!

Zuckerberg says that Facebook will "keep listening" to its users. So now is the time to tell him what you want: you don't want "easier controls" that limit your options, you simply want control so that your information is shared as you choose, not as Facebook chooses. Please Demand Your dotRights by signing our petition and telling Facebook you want control of your personal information!

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