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Facebook, privacy and India

by Sunil Abraham last modified Sep 26, 2013 11:40 AM
Does Facebook's decision to open out user information and data to third party websites amount to an invasion of privacy and should users' seriously consider getting out of the site? Sunil Abraham doesn't think so.
Facebook, privacy and India

Image from BBC Online

Even if you aren’t a Facebook user (and most likely than not you are), chances are that you’ve at least heard that there are problems related to privacy settings on the site. The net has been abuzz with indignation over a decision by Facebook to open out user information and data to third party websites. A number of high profile Facebook users (and many more low profile ones) completely deactivated their accounts after the changes were announced by Founder and Chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and critics immediately pointed out that users were losing control of their personal information.

There have been a slew of articles condemning the move, and highlighting “dramatic” changes to the sites privacy policy. Most alarming perhaps being this slideshow compiled by Matt McKeon.

All these are legitimate concerns, but how worried should we be really? Should you be seriously considering getting off the site? “As long as you are a little smart about what you upload on Facebook, there is no need to do anything as drastic as deleting your account”, says Sunil Abraham the executive director of the Centre for Internet & society, based out of Bangalore. Abraham said that the issue has shown people the risk of uploading certain types of photographs and content on to the net, but most importantly highlights the need for a privacy commission in India.

“The EU has a commission which makes certain directives to sites like Facebook from time to time, which are then adhered to. India should also seriously consider setting up a similar commission, he said.

Facebook has mantained that its privacy settings are prominently displayed and can be easily accessed by users. But critics say that it is much too long and convoluted. The BBC reports that the policy in its current form has 50 different settings, 170 options and runs to 5,830 words, making it longer than the US Constitution. And the sheer volume of outrage has prompted a rethink of the privacy policy by Facebook, which since held an internal meeting to discuss the affair.

Abraham agrees that the issue of privacy is a complex one, but noted that the definition of what constituted “privacy” varied from culture to culture. “In India, it is perfectly normal for someone to ask someone else how much they earn, while such a question would be completely outside the boundaries of propriety in most Western countries”, he said. The issue with Facebook, he says, is that its desicion to change its privacy settings was tantamount to a breach of contract. “People who joined Facebook did so because they were comfortable with the settings and regulations available on the site. For Facebook to suddenly change that violates the spirit of that contract”, he said.

Meanwhile the founder and chief executive of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg has written an article in the Washington Post today directly addressing issues relating to privacy controls on the popular social networking site.

“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,”said Zuckerberg.

Read the article in Livemint

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