In addition to settling with the FTC today, Facebook made a slew of pronouncements on its own blog in a post titled Our Commitment to the Facebook Community. Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who wrote it, explained the idea behind his social network: people want to share and connect with others in their lives, but they need complete control over who they share with at all times.
In the post, he says Facebook became the world's biggest community online by making people feel comfortable sharing things about their real lives. He declares the company has a good history of providing transparency and control over who can see your information. On the other hand, he also admits Facebook had made many mistakes. He specifically notes the social networking giant's arguably biggest blunder two years ago, when the service radically changed its privacy settings without warning its users (this is what kicked off FTC's investigation).
Still, Zuckerberg argues that this event has overshadowed much of the good work his company has done. He emphasizes that in the last 18 months, Facebook has announced more than 20 new tools and resources designed to give its users more control over their Facebook experience. Here's some of the ones he lists:
- An easier way to select your audience when making a new post
- Inline privacy controls on all your existing posts
- The ability to review tags made by others before they appear on your profile
- Friend lists that are easier to create and that maintain themselves automatically
- A new groups product for sharing with smaller sets of people
- A tool to view your profile as someone else would see it
- Tools to ensure your information stays secure like double login approval
- Mobile versions of your privacy controls
- An easy way to download all your Facebook data
- A new apps dashboard to control what your apps can access
- A new app permission dialog that gives you clear control over what an app can do anytime you add one
- Many more privacy education resources
Zuckerberg also professes that privacy is deeply embedded in all of the development the company does. Every day, Facebook makes tens of billions privacy access checks to ensure it is enforcing that only the people you allow can see your content.
Nevertheless, the FTC has recommended that Facebook make improvements to its internal processes, and the company has agreed to formalize the way it performs privacy reviews as part of its ongoing product development process. This includes a biannual independent audit of its privacy practices to ensure Palo Alto is living up to the commitments it makes.
Last but not least, Zuckerberg today announced he is creating two new corporate officer roles: Michael Richter will become Chief Privacy Officer, Products, and Erin Egan will become Chief Privacy Officer, Policy. The two will make sure the company's commitments will be reflected both internally (development of products and system security) and externally (working with regulators, government agencies, and privacy groups).
Egan joined Facebook after serving as a partner and co-chair of the global privacy and data security practice at the international law firm Covington & Burling. Her career has included legislative and regulatory efforts to address privacy, data security, spam, spyware, and other consumer protection issues.
Richter is currently Facebook's Chief Privacy Counsel on the company's legal team, but in his new role, he will expand, improve, and formalize the service's existing program of internal privacy review. He will work to ensure that Facebook's principles are integrated consistently into both product development process and the actual products.
"Today's announcement formalizes our commitment to providing you with control over your privacy and sharing -- and it also provides protection to ensure that your information is only shared in the way you intend," Zuckerbeg said. "As the founder and CEO of Facebook, I look forward to working with the Commission as we implement this agreement. It is my hope that this agreement makes it clear that Facebook is the leader when it comes to offering people control over the information they share online. Finally, I also want to reaffirm the commitment I made when I first launched Facebook. We will serve you as best we can and work every day to provide you with the best tools for you to share with each other and the world. We will continue to improve the service, build new ways for you to share and offer new ways to protect you and your information better than any other company in the world."
This is the most details Zuckerberg has ever provided in regards to his stance on Facebook privacy. It isn't exactly in line with what he has said in the past though, as you can see in the links below.
- Zuckerberg: Google, Microsoft collect data "behind your back"
- Mark Zuckerberg: Facebook users eventually get over privacy anxiety
- Facebook CTO: most people have modified their privacy settings
- Facebook moves privacy controls inline, simplifies sharing
- Security experts have mixed feelings about Facebook’s privacy revamp