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Facebook users slam privacy changes

Social network’s reaction ‘stinks’

By Steve Evans

New research by security firm Sophos has revealed that the vast majority of users on social networking site Facebook oppose the recently-announced privacy changes.

Sophos quizzed 680 users through its website and Facebook profile, with 95% of respondents claiming the new changes are a “bad thing”. Just 2% said they support the changes while the rest didn’t understand what changes were being proposed by Facebook.

The changes, initially announced in March this year, involve letting approved third-party websites access user information. If a user visits one of these third-party sites while logged in to Facebook, that site will be able to access the user’s name, profile picture, gender, friends and connections, user ID and any other content shared using the “Everyone” privacy setting.

That this could mean information such as date of birth and address could be accessed by the third-party site, even if the user has not given the site explicit permission to access that data, says Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos.

Facebook has responded to the concerns by reassuring users that information will only be shared with carefully selected third-party sites, which would be required to make it quick and easy for users to opt-out if they wish.

Cluley, however, believes that Facebook’s response is not good enough. “Personally, I still think it stinks,” he wrote on his blog. “Most users still don’t know how to set their Facebook privacy options safely, finding the whole system confusing. The onus should not be on Facebook users having to opt-out of this new feature, but instead on users having to opt-in.”

“Once again, it feels like online privacy is being eroded by stealth. Too many websites are chipping away at their members’ privacy and security, potentially exposing their personal data to third parties that were never in the equation when they first signed-up for the service,” Cluley said.

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