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Expert weighs in on Facebook privacy policy

5/28/2012

Facebook is an interesting case study for those crafting a privacy policy and terms of use agreement, and one expert in the field recently shared his perspective on the Facebook approach to privacy in a piece for CNN.

Amitai Etzioni, director of the Institute for Communitarian Policy Studies at George Washington University, pointed out that Facebook's privacy policy has earned sharp criticism. He quoted Human Rights First CEO Elisa Massimino as saying, "Facebook's privacy policies are prohibitively confusing, make it difficult for users to protect personal information, expose disclosure information users believe is private, and are changed without adequate warning or consent from users."

While not entirely dismissive of Massimino's point, Etzioni had a different perspective. He said that Facebook - like many social media sites - is caught in a difficult situation, needing to reassure users of their privacy at the same time it provides the open environment they desire.

Etzioni said it does take "a considerable amount of effort" to personalize Facebook's privacy settings, but it is possible to do so. He also put Facebook in the context of the cyberage generally, which he argued is more secure than past eras. Widespread encryption and password protection keeps data more private than in the past, when documents were kept in desk drawers. Considering this, the outcry over Facebook's privacy policy seems alarmist, in Etzioni's view.

Facebook users will likely vote on the most recent changes to the site's Data Use Policy, CNET recently reported. Before casting their virtual ballot, uses may want to consider Etzioni's arguments.