Facebook users angry over privacy

Facebook website on a browser

by Janet Babin

Syracuse University grad student Anastasia Kolobrodova spends her time researching new media. But even she didn't catch Facebook's recent privacy changes right away. She was automatically opted in to the "instant personalization" program. It's where Facebook shares your preferences with companies Yelp, Pandora and Microsoft -- without permission.

"I never selected that I would share my information with those people. I had to go back and un-share, and I don't know how long my information was shared with Facebook's select partners," says Kolobrodova.

The feature is just the latest example of Facebook pushing the privacy envelope. And many users complain they can't figure out how to opt out of sharing their information.

Software engineer Matt Pizzimenti even designed a website to help users navigate Facebook's privacy settings.

"It's just an easy scan that you can run on your Facebook account. And it will go through as many privacy settings as we can, and let you know if you're exposed or not."

The website's called ReclaimPrivacy.org. Pizzimenti says it's had several hundred thousand hits since its inception last Friday.

In a statement, Facebook said it's listening to feedback and evaluating the best way to respond to concerns. The uproar has Facebook in a bind though. It doesn't want to lose users, but it doesn't want to lose revenue from sharing users information.

"Facebook doesn't really care about the privacy of its members," says Jeff Chester with the Center for Digital Democracy. "This is all about a battle over the future of online advertising."

The more data that Facebook mines, the more information it can sell to companies eager to friend us.

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