Facebook CEO: privacy controls "missed the mark"

SAN FRANCISCO Mon May 24, 2010 12:28pm EDT

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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said the Internet social network will roll out new privacy settings for its more than 400 million users, amid growing concerns that the company is pushing users to make more of their personal data public.

"Many of you thought our controls were too complex," said Zuckerberg in an opinion piece published on Monday in The Washington Post.

"Our intention was to give you lots of granular controls; but that may not have been what many of you wanted. We just missed the mark," said the 26-year-old Zuckerberg, who co-founded Facebook in his Harvard dorm room in 2004.

In the coming weeks, Zuckerberg promised, Facebook will add privacy controls that he said would be much simpler to use.

Facebook will also give users an easy way to turn off all third-party services, Zuckerberg said.

It was not clear whether the third-party services referred to applications designed to be used within Facebook, such as games from companies like Zynga and Electronic Arts Inc's Playfish, or to separate websites which have recently begun to incorporate Facebook data.

The comments come a few weeks after Facebook, the world's largest Internet social network, unveiled several changes to its service that have prompted sharp criticism from privacy advocates and spurred a few high-profile Facebook users, such as tech commentator Jason Calacanis, to delete their accounts in protest.

A feature called "instant personalization" automatically imports Facebook users' personal profile information to the music site Pandora and the user-review site Yelp.

Another recent change forced Facebook users to make some of their profile information, such as education, hobbies and hometown, tied to public pages devoted to those topics.

And many users decry the service's byzantine privacy settings, which one blogger has called the modern-day equivalent of the notoriously complex task of programing a VCR.

Palo Alto, California-based Facebook is a private company and does not disclose financial data, though analyst estimates for its 2009 revenue range from $500 million to $650 million, primarily from selling online ads targeted at users based on their activity and profile information on Facebook.

The service is expected to reach half a billion users in the next several weeks, up sharply from 150 million users in January 2009.

Zuckerberg also noted in his opinion piece in The Washington Post, whose chairman, Donald Graham, is a member of Facebook's board of directors, that Facebook will always be kept as a free service for everyone.

(Reporting by Alexei Oreskovic, editing by Matthew Lewis)

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