Based on a number of conversations we’ve had with various sources over the past few days, it appears as though Facebook’s highly controversial “Instant Personalization” program will remain opt-out following the upcoming privacy overhaul. It’s ironic because it violates one of the core privacy principles that Mark Zuckerberg highlighted last night in his Washington Post article.
Specifically, Zuckerberg states that “We do not share your personal information with people or services you don’t want.” However that’s exactly what the “Instant Personalization” program does. While you could back around the definition of “personal information” and the specifics of what defines user intent, the company is attempting to continue operating within a grey policy area.
What users are expecting from the impending privacy changes is two fold: an easier way to control their information, and truly complete control. This is something that falls within Facebook’s privacy principles, yet they continue to provide partially functional controls. While it’s possible to hide some information, managing how your personal data is used becomes overly complex when combined with third-parties. For some, just managing a profile is difficult as it is.
These exact challenges are what Facebook is looking to fix with the new privacy settings set to be announced later this week. However if Facebook still wants to share information on behalf of the user without their explicit permission (and also add such programs after the user has registered), the company could continue to face an uphill battle in building trust with the users.
While many users don’t care about privacy, and others believe that the information isn’t really that important, if you promise to give users complete control, you should do exactly that. Let them decide who they want their information should be shared with, don’t do it for them.
Right now Facebook has the opportunity to restore user trust on a level never obtained by another corporation. While leaving “instant personalization” as is may not destroy the company completely, there’s no doubt that it still is damaging the company’s reputation through the media.