Facebook puts public face to privacy

Facebook is looking to make its data use policy more accessible to users by offering them the opportunity to help contribute to the way its future privacy settings will look and to put questions directly to its chief privacy officer as it looks to quell concern about the way it stores and uses their data.

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The social network sent out an e-mail today (22 November) to all its users, addressed from its vice president of communications, public policy and marketing Elliot Schrage, informing them about the proposed changes to two of the documents that govern its site.

The documents being amended are its data use policy, which explains how it collects and uses user data, and its statement of rights and responsibilities, which explains the terms governing its use of services.

In a bid to help users read and understand the documents and the proposed amendments Facebook is launching a new feature on its “Facebook and Privacy Page” that will let users submit questions about privacy to its chief privacy officer of policy Erin Egan.

Egan will also host webcasts on a regular basis to address users’ comments and questions about privacy, safety and security.

Proposed changes to its service include adding new tools for managing Facebook messages to allow users to filter incoming messages and the inclusion of extra reminders about what content is visible to others.

Facebook is encouraging users to read through all the proposed changes to its service and amendments to its policy and to leave feedback by 28 November.

Previously users were able to vote on policy changes once they had reached a certain number of comments but it has amended this process to simply inviting comment, after finding the previous system “incentivised the quantity of comments over their quality”.

By encouraging user involvement, Facebook will be hoping to abate user concern about how it handles their data.

In September the site was the subject of a global rumour that users’ private messages had been made public on their timelines. Although the allegations were false, the rumour exposed some users’ distrust in the service, as many rushed to change their privacy settings and some even vowed to quit the site altogether.

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