Former Facebook Exec Criticises Company For Privacy Stance

Former Facebook privacy officer Chris Kelly has joined the ranks of public officials taking Facebook to task over privacy issues

Former Facebook exec Chris Kelly, now a candidate for attorney general in California, challenged Facebook to reiterate its commitment to privacy.

Kelly, who is running for attorney general for California, called for his former employer to reiterate its commitment to sharing user information only with their prior approval.

“In my time at Facebook as Chief Privacy Officer, I saw first-hand how important it is to protect the privacy of our users as part of our work in bringing people together,” he wrote in a letter to the organisation MoveOn. “That’s why, last week, I was encouraged to see Facebook respond to the significant external criticism, including mine, regarding the recent privacy problems that developed after my departure to run for California Attorney General. Today, I remain troubled by the news that Facebook still plans to offer only an opt-out to “instant personalization”—meaning that users’ information will be shared with third parties without clear consent.”

Kelly urged users to voice their concerns by changing their Facebook status to “Facebook: Privacy is a right, not personal preference. Stop sharing my information without my opt-in approval” and join the Facebook group “Facebook: Respect my privacy.”

Privacy Guidelines

Kelly is not the first politician to call for Facebook to make changes recently. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) made headlines in late April when he requested the Federal Trade Commission set privacy guidelines for social networks. At the moment, Kelly is in the middle of a heated campaign for state attorney general as the date of the primary election – 8 June – approaches.

While Facebook declined to respond directly to Kelly’s comments, spokesperson Andrew Noyes said the company has made it easier for people to turn off the instant personalisation feature and prevent applications in the program from accessing their information.

“It is important to note that the program involves three well-respected partners – Microsoft, Pandora and Yelp – each of whom were already required to adhere to strict limitations on the use of data,” Noyes said. “They were also already required to offer an easy and prominent method for users to opt out directly from their Websites and delete data of users that choose to opt out…we introduced a way to completely switch off all third-party applications and Websites so that users’ information is not shared. The early reaction to these changes from users around the world and the community of privacy and consumer groups has been overwhelmingly positive.”

More Sharing Good

While no policy can negate the need for personal responsibility about what one posts, companies in both the offline and digital worlds must respect customer privacy, Kelly added.
“More sharing in the world is a good thing—it allows for the building of deeper bonds of community and social and political progress,” Kelly wrote. “But strong privacy protections are a must for any Internet site like Facebook, because users have a right to protect their privacy. User privacy won’t be fully secure until Facebook recommits to letting users choose about third-party sharing.”