This morning in a letter published in the Washington Post, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has responded to the barrage of criticism that has been directed toward the site since its set of announcements at f8. The key message: Zuckerberg says that with respect to its privacy controls “[Facebook] just missed the mark.”
The letter isn’t particularly apologetic — you won’t find words like “sorry”, “fault”, or “mistake”. Instead, it’s more of an acknowledgment that Facebook has heard the criticism and will be responding to it. Soon, Facebook will be rolling out a new set of simplified privacy controls and an easy way to “turn off all third-party services”. Here are some key quotes from Zuckerberg’s letter:
We have heard the feedback. There needs to be a simpler way to control your information. In the coming weeks, we will add privacy controls that are much simpler to use. We will also give you an easy way to turn off all third-party services. We are working hard to make these changes available as soon as possible.
The biggest message we have heard recently is that people want easier control over their information. Simply put, many of you thought our controls were too complex. Our intention was to give you lots of granular controls; but that may not have been what many of you wanted. We just missed the mark.
We have also heard that some people don’t understand how their personal information is used and worry that it is shared in ways they don’t want. I’d like to clear that up now. Many people choose to make some of their information visible to everyone so people they know can find them on Facebook. We already offer controls to limit the visibility of that information and we intend to make them even stronger.
None of this should have come as a surprise to anyone at Facebook. I’ve been writing about the looming backlash for months. Not because I’m especially prescient, but because it was really obvious to anyone paying attention. Facebook made a gamble, and it hasn’t worked out very well. At least for now — expect them to try to push the envelope again in, oh, about six months. Hopefully users will be better educated about their privacy and how to control it when that time comes.
Top photo by Steve Maller Photography