Facebook hopes new privacy page can quell unrest

Amid uprisings from users, Facebook launches Web page to help users maintain privacy

In an attempt to quell increasing privacy concerns among its users, Facebook this week launched a new page aimed at helping them better protect personal information posted on the social network.

The company announced the new Facebook privacy page in a blog post yesterday.

"The Facebook Privacy Page serves as a living resource and a venue to facilitate an interactive discussion about privacy with all of you," wrote Simon Axten, a manager on Facebook's public policy team, in the post. "We'll regularly post updates on relevant new content, products and news stories related to online privacy. Already you'll find a repository of online privacy resources both from Facebook and outside experts, including our video tutorials on how to choose your settings, as well as links to our privacy guide and FAQs."

Facebook has been hit with increasing criticism from privacy advocates over the past couple of years. The criticism heated up markeedly in April after Facebook unveiled a bevy of tools that would allow the sharing of user information with other Web sites.

That move caused an uprising among users and even prompted a handful of U.S. Senators to pen an open letter calling on Facebook to amend its privacy policies.

Facebook first responded last week with the release of a set of new, simpler privacy controls. That move appeared to appease many users who had complaine that the earlier controls were too complicated and confusing.

However, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg stirred up the issue again earlier this week when he sidestepped questions about privacy at the Wall Street Journal's All Things Digital, or D8, conference.

Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research, said the social networking firm has to work on reviving its image, and that a big part of the effort will have to be listening to the privacy concerns of Facebook users.

"A privacy page could be very helpful," Gottheil said. "I'd like to see how effectively Facebook directs users to that page, and I'd like them to be very public about any changes to their policy. That's really my biggest problem with Facebook. They haven't encourage people to think about those settings.

"The problem is that Facebook wants to pretend there's no potential downside to sharing everything," he added. "They are now showing they understand that some people care, but they are not showing that they understand why."

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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