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Facebook Adopts “Bunker Mentality” Over Privacy Concerns



If you are tired of hearing about Facebook and privacy you may not be alone but there is also little to no relief in the long range forecast. It looks like there may be an extended heat wave relating to Facebook and their privacy attempts / blunders / mea culpas etc. Things must be getting pretty hot because yesterday Facebook called an “all hands” meeting for today to discuss the very issue that keeps putting Facebook in the spotlight for what it isn’t doing rather than what it is doing. No company likes that kind of press even if you appear to be inhuman like Facebook can at times.

Inside Facebook reports

Facing increasing pressure from the media and users, Facebook has called an all hands meeting tomorrow afternoon, at 4 PM Pacific, to discuss the company’s overall privacy strategy according to sources inside the company. Facebook has come under increasing scrutiny for a number of reasons and many were left with a sour taste in their mouth following a New York Times reader Q&A with Elliot Schrage, the company’s Vice President for Public Policy.

We covered that Q & A yesterday and I thought it was either brilliant or stupid with no in betweens. The GigaOm article in the above quote really lays into Facebook for its inability to just come out and say what it intends. As a result, there is a lot of confusion AND mounting hostility toward the social networking giant.

If you really want to see some interesting facts about Facebook and privacy in a graphical fashion check out the New York Times Facebook privacy chart and some accompanying statistics. It shows that the current Facebook privacy policy is longer that the original US Constitution (minus amendments). Also, the current policy is about 6 times bigger (in total words) than the original policy from 2005. Those were my fun facts for the day. Thanks, NYT!

So Facebook now needs to pull itself together and it is calling everyone into a room to figure it out. Honestly, it may be too late to do something that is not harmful to the company in a big way.

While it’s unknown what Facebook will announce during the meeting, it’s pretty obvious that changes will need to be made if Facebook is going to regain users’ trust. The most likely change will come in the form of a temporary removal of the “Instant Personalization” service, or at the least, a shift to “opt-in”, something many privacy advocates have been calling for.

If Facebook does another “about face”, they would now have Beacon and the current privacy gaffe on their resume and trust will become zero. The biggest threat is that this “dirty little secret” which gets huge attention from insiders and even mainstream tech news outlets could go to the masses. Right now, I don’t think that most Facebook users even know there is a problem. It’s when everyone understands that Facebook is at worst trampling privacy concerns or at best confusing the issue to the state of being FUBAR there will be no good endings to this story for Facebook.

Just imagine what floodgates they will open if they cave under pressure on this one. Can they act to rectify this without doing some serious damage to their standing as a respectable company? Or, will they now demand such tight vigilance by consumer and government watchdogs that their ability to do business (i.e. sell ads based on user data) is crippled?

Your thoughts?