Facebook rolls out privacy education for new users

The new privacy campaign will focus the site's default settings, user access to data and sharing information

Facebook has launched an expanded privacy education campaign for new users, with the focus on default settings, user access to their own data and deciding who they share their information with.

Facebook, in an announcement on the site Friday, said the new privacy education effort helps users understand how sharing works on the site and how they can control how they share information. The site received guidance from the Irish Data Protection Commissioner's Office on the new educational effort, the company said.

New users should start seeing the enhanced privacy campaign Friday, Facebook said.

"At Facebook, we're committed to making sure people understand how to control what they share and with whom," Erin Egan, Facebook's chief privacy officer, said in the announcement.

The expanded privacy campaign will include information about how users select an audience for information shared on their Facebook timelines, about how they interact with applications, games and other websites, how ads work on the site, and how to tag people, Facebook said.

Facebook has also added privacy controls so that new users can select audiences for their information about their high schools, colleges and employers, Facebook said.

Two privacy advocates questioned the Facebook effort. Facebook is under pressure from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and E.U. officials to protect privacy, said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy.

"CDD believes there is a fundamental disconnect between what Facebook says to its users regarding their privacy and how the platform actually operates and captures user data (including for its social advertising operations)," Chester wrote in an email. "Educational tools are often used as a smoke screen to cover up practices which require scrutiny and regulatory intervention."

Facebook doesn't do a good job explaining how it collects data from users, he added. "Facebook is continually releasing new ways to collect data and target its users," Chester said.

In addition, consumer education is typically not an effective way to protect user privacy, added Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

"The devil is always in the defaults," Rotenberg added in an email. "Too often companies use these announcements as an opportunity to change privacy settings and business practices."

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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Tags: U.S. Federal Trade Commission, Internet-based applications and services, Center for Digital Democracy, social networking, Erin Egan, internet, Electronic Privacy Information Center, Facebook, privacy, Marc Rotenberg, Jeffrey Chester, security, Irish Data Protection Commissioner's Office
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