Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Admits Privacy Gaffes

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg acknowledges users' privacy concerns.

ByABC News
May 24, 2010, 9:57 AM

May 24, 2010— -- After enduring weeks of criticism over his company's latest privacy changes, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg today offered a mea culpa in an op-ed column in the Washington Post. But some industry observers doubt that the tweaks he outlined will be enough to satisfy users' concerns.

Acknowledging the public's response to Facebook's approach to privacy, he wrote, "Sometimes we move too fast -- and after listening to recent concerns, we're responding."

"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," Zuckerberg wrote. "We just missed the mark."

He said that the company is planning to introduce simplified privacy settings, as well as an easy way to disable all third-party services.

But Adam Ostrow, editor-in-chief of the social media blog (and ABCNews.com partner) Mashable, said that though Zuckerberg's statements may recognize the recent public outcry, they don't directly address the concerns raised by Facebook's most vocal critics.

"I think what he's done here is essentially acknowledge that there's been a lot of discussion recently about Facebook and privacy issues," said Ostrow. "But it really falls short of saying anything significant."

Rather than forcing users to opt out of sharing their personal data and friend lists with third parties, privacy advocates want Facebook not to opt them in in the first place. And that doesn't appear to be the approach the company is taking, although Zuckerberg didn't provide specifics on the privacy changes being planned.

The op-ed appeared after a well-known tech blogger this weekend published an e-mail from Zuckerberg in which he also acknowledged missteps.

"I know we've made a bunch of mistakes, but my hope at the end of this is that the service ends up in a better place and that people understand that our intentions are in the right place and we respond to the feedback from the people we serve," Zuckerberg wrote in an e-mail to Robert Scoble.

In the weeks since Facebook unveiled its latest changes, detractors have focused on the social network's strategy of pushing users toward more openness. One controversial feature instantly shared user data with some websites without the user's permission. Another feature urged users to make public previously private information about personal interests and activities.

Ostrow said that Zuckerberg's column today fails to address these highly debated features and it seems unlikely that Facebook intends to roll them back.

He also said that users want to know what Facebook plans to do with their data, but the company has yet to provide an explanation.

The latest backlash traces back to Facebook's developer conference a few weeks ago, when Zuckerberg announced several changes intended to make the Web more social and personalized by expanding Facebook's presence to other sites.

On thousands of sites, including ABCNews.com, a "social plug-in" now lets users "like" content and see what their Facebook friends have liked, directly from those sites.

On three sites piloting an "instant personalization" feature, a user's profile information and friend list are automatically read by the site and used to shape the user's experience.