Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg finally began speaking publicly about the latest round of privacy troubles the social network has faced in the month after the company’s first big developer conference in two years. He also pledged to launch new tools in the coming weeks that make it easier for users to manage their privacy and to turn off all third-party services.
Instead of just publishing a blog post on Facebook, as has been his past practice, Zuckerberg penned an op-ed for the Washington Post, whose chief executive Don Graham sits on Facebook’s board of directors and which is, conveniently, the hometown newspaper of Congress and its army of lobbyists and regulators, Zuckerberg said the company had “missed the mark” on designing privacy controls for users.
“The biggest message we have heard recently is that people want easier control over their information,” he wrote. “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.”
The big question is how the social network will design the defaults. Facebook users underwent a major privacy transition last December. It allowed users to make all of their content as private or as public as possible with deep granular controls for every status update or photo album. But critics latched onto the fact that users who hadn’t adjusted their settings had their content defaulted to public view. That meant that a lot of data was suddenly exposed, whether or not users understood the ramifications of their privacy choices.
One way the new privacy settings could work is that Facebook could offer four different suggested arrangements of privacy settings ranging from being totally public to being limited to only a core group of friends.
“We will keep building, we will keep listening and we will continue to have a dialogue with everyone who cares enough about Facebook to share their ideas,” Zuckerberg said.
Still, Zuckerberg said Facebook’s core philosophy hadn’t changed. The company is still working to make the world more “open and connected,” a mission which — with the emphasis on the word “open” — will undoubtedly continue to run up against privacy concerns.