The Tech Herald

Privacy complaints force Facebook to backtrack on service changes

by Stevie Smith - Feb 19 2009, 20:00

Smiling on the other side of his face following user complaints. Image: deneyterrio/Flickr.

After making contentious alterations to its terms of service agreement, hugely popular social network Facebook has buckled under the weight of user criticism and temporarily reverted back to the terms it was using only 48 hours ago.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced the hurried backtrack through a blog post, saying that the network will work to resolve highlighted issues after users complained the new terms indicated Facebook would retain personal data – even in relation to deleted accounts.

Despite originally defending the changes, insisting they will help preserve user content posted on the pages of others when and if accounts are deleted, Zuckerberg has now officially bowed to mounting pressure.  

“[In] the past couple of days, we received a lot of questions and comments about the changes and what they mean for people and their information,” said Zuckerberg in his explanatory post. “Based on this feedback, we have decided to return to our previous terms of use while we resolve the issues that people have raised.”

And, rather than skulking off to a dank corner to lick its wounds, Facebook has said it will actively work towards drawing up an approved usage document on how people share and control their information by assessing the input of its users.

“Our next version will be a substantial revision from where we are now,” added Zuckerberg, “…and it will be written clearly in language everyone can understand.”

Speaking with the BBS news Web site, Simon Davies of Privacy International said growing market competition from the likes of Twitter means Facebook simply cannot afford such “disasters,” which only serve to upset and potentially alienate its user base.

Along with advising Facebook users to shift their privacy settings to maximum in order to restrict advertiser access to their information, Mr. Davies suggested the social network should commit to a privacy policy that permits its users to completely delete all data, including back-ups, within a specified period of time.

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