Facebook issues detailed response to privacy concerns

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Facebook issues detailed response to privacy concerns

Social site reacts to highly critical open letter from privacy advocates.

Facebook has issued a detailed response to an open letter (pdf) from several privacy groups which had asked the social networking site to address a number of policy issues.

The letter from the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Electronic Privacy Information Center, among others, touched on six main issues to which Facebook has responded individually.

Regarding third-party applications being able to access users' information, Facebook said that it will roll out a new "data permission model" for developers this summer to address this, and that it had added new functionality to allow users to opt-out of this information sharing.

The company also said that the recently launched instant personalisation programme had been "widely misunderstood", and that it allowed only Facebook partners to access information that was already public on users' profiles, as anyone could anyway.

"In addition, we've made it easier for people to turn off the instant personalisation pilot programme which prevent those, and any future applications in the programme, from accessing their information," Facebook said.

The company also defended the use of its 'Like' button for storing information on users, claiming that data is kept for only 90 days, is not sold on for advertisement targeting and "works in the same basic way as all widgets across the internet".

Regarding the issue of enabling users to export data to other social networking sites, Facebook said that, while it allows APIs that enable users to do this with their own information, it would not allow this in a way that took data created by other users.

"Frankly we're surprised that these groups would advocate for a tool that would enable one person to strip all of the privacy protections for any information that has been shared with them," Facebook said.

The firm claimed that it had greatly improved the privacy of all information shared by users, and said that, although the profile picture, gender and networks of users remain open, these areas can also be protected.

"Just like with other fields of data, users can decide to share this content with friends, friends of friends or everyone. It has been our experience that people have a more meaningful experience when they share some information about themselves," Facebook said.

Lastly, the firm claimed that it is testing Secure Sockets Layer access to the site in order to increase security.

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