Facebook to Launch 'Simplistic' Privacy Choices Soon

Facebook exec suggests simpler privacy settings could be on the way.

May 19, 2010— -- Reacting to the latest privacy backlash, Facebook will be rolling out new "simplistic" privacy options for its users in the coming weeks, according to Facebook head of public policy Tim Sparapani.

"Now we've heard from our users that we have gotten a little bit complex," Sparapani said in a radio interview Tuesday. "I think we are going to work on that. We are going to be providing options for users who want simplistic bands of privacy that they can choose from and I think we will see that in the next couple of weeks."

While it's not clear what those options will look like or if they will be presented to existing users, one supposes that at least new users will be given some broad options to choose from along the lines of "I'm an exhibitionist," "I like sharing with a lot of people, but not everybody" and "I'm a private person who just wants to share with friends and family."

Currently, new users are set to very public defaults, including having their profile information shared with other online services such as Yelp and Pandora.

Facebook's Head of Public Policy Referenced Possible Changes on Radio Show

The proposed changes are unlikely to reverse the company's December decision to make large portions of a user's profile into "publicly available information" — which means even if you hide the fact you support a gun rights organization in your profile settings, that's still findable online.

Sparapani announced the upcoming changes on the Kojo Nnamdi public radio show Tuesday, which this writer also participated in. Sparapani's announcement starts at about 26:30 in the show's segment on a Facebook backlash.

While conceding some ground to critics of recent changes, Sparapani also defended Facebook, saying the company was dedicated to privacy despite its long march towards account defaults that push users to be more public and a privacy policy that is now longer than the U.S. Constitution.

"We have built a privacy setting for every new type of sharing [users] are allowed to have," Sparapani said. "What that means is that in fact we have come up with an extraordinary number of privacy settings."

Facebook Exec Touted New 'Like' Button

"This should be compared to almost any other company out there where there are no privacy settings at all," he added. "So Facebook should be getting credit here for giving tools in the first place."

Sparapani also touted Facebook's recent unveiling of the "Like" button and other features which let sites embed information from your friends around the web.

Wired.com, among thousands of other sites have embedded the "Like" button, while an example of further integration can be seen on CNN.com.

"We have customized every single website out there for people who choose to have it," Sparapani said in another portion of Tuesday's interview. "That is an extraordinary gift to the public."

Prior to taking a job with Facebook last year, Sparapani served as a senior legislative lobbyist for the ACLU's Washington office. He led the rights group's ultimately unsuccessful efforts to convince lawmakers to rein in the NSA's domestic spying and allow it to be contested in court.

Facebook users confused about their privacy settings can check out a new privacy reporting tool released this week.