Saturday, June 30, 2007

Facebook glitch may have exposed private information

Earlier in the week, Wired exposed a glitch in the Facebook architecture that may expose information that users had marked as "private". (Threat Level - Wired Blogs: Facebook Private Profiles Not As Private As You Think They Are -- UPDATED With Facebook Changes) For example, a lesbian in Halifax who had marked their profile as private would still appear in an advanced search of women who like women in that city. The glitch has been fixed. In a followup, Wired spoke with Facebook's Chief Privacy Officer, Chris Kelly, who had some provided some insight into the company's privacy outlook:

Threat Level - Wired Blogs

Facebook Fixes Search Glitch, Explains Privacy Strategy

...Kelly, who became the social networking site's privacy officer in September 2005 after a stint as the original general counsel, hopes instead to mimic the social protections in real world interactions, where it might be possible to find out through normal social channels what neighborhood a person lives in, but not learn their exact address, for instance.

Kelly contends that 100 percent of Facebook users avail themselves of the site's privacy features since users are visible only to members of groups that they join or to their friends. Some 20 percent tweak these setting using Facebook's fine-grained privacy settings page, according to Kelly.

"To me that shows that despite what some people say who want to assert that privacy is going away, we think users care a lot about privacy and control and we aim to give them a lot of privacy and control," Kelly said.

Despite a minor coding glitch that might have caused some serious disclosure of private information, I do think that Facebook has gotten the privacy thing right. I haven't seen any other online service that provides users with such fine-grained control over their personal information.

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