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Facebook renews some trust, lives another day

Facebook has updated their privacy controls and now provides the ability to block a fair amount of personal activity information from being broadcast.

This is exactly what they should do and what they should have provided at the time of the launch of Mini-Feed and News Feed.

Both Fred and danah have weighed in and for the most part, I think this will be a truly pivotal moment for Facebook. They’ve messed up, said as much, and provided a set of tools to win back the trust of their community. The students will not flee – and the next Friendster has yet to be identified.

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Good job Facebook.

And like I said, they do get it and they will change things to make it work. The fact that they knew they were racing the clock is a good indication of how they’ll fare. Don’t count them out yet.

An Open Letter from Mark Zuckerberg:

We really messed this one up. When we launched News Feed and Mini-Feed we were trying to provide you with a stream of information about your social world. Instead, we did a bad job of explaining what the new features were and an even worse job of giving you control of them. I’d like to try to correct those errors now.

When I made Facebook two years ago my goal was to help people understand what was going on in their world a little better. I wanted to create an environment where people could share whatever information they wanted, but also have control over whom they shared that information with. I think a lot of the success we’ve seen is because of these basic principles.

We made the site so that all of our members are a part of smaller networks like schools, companies or regions, so you can only see the profiles of people who are in your networks and your friends. We did this to make sure you could share information with the people you care about. This is the same reason we have built extensive privacy settings – to give you even more control over who you share your information with.

Somehow we missed this point with Feed and we didn’t build in the proper privacy controls right away. This was a big mistake on our part, and I’m sorry for it. But apologizing isn’t enough. I wanted to make sure we did something about it, and quickly. So we have been coding nonstop for two days to get you better privacy controls. This new privacy page will allow you to choose which types of stories go into your Mini-Feed and your friends’ News Feeds, and it also lists the type of actions Facebook will never let any other person know about. If you have more comments, please send them over.

This may sound silly, but I want to thank all of you who have written in and created groups and protested. Even though I wish I hadn’t made so many of you angry, I am glad we got to hear you. And I am also glad that News Feed highlighted all these groups so people could find them and share their opinions with each other as well.

About a week ago I created a group called Free Flow of Information on the Internet, because that’s what I believe in – helping people share information with the people they want to share it with. I’d encourage you to check it out to learn more about what guides those of us who make Facebook. Tomorrow at 4pm est, I will be in that group with a bunch of people from Facebook, and we would love to discuss all of this with you. It would be great to see you there.

Thanks for taking the time to read this,

Mark

Update: Just found Charlie O’Donnell’s post. Sharing a mind is a tough assignment.

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  1. jkd | September 8, 2006 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    The first thing that struck me when reading that letter from Mark Zuckerberg was its message penetration: it almost certainly ranks as the all-time most-read splash page in the history of teh Intarwub. Seriously, I’d guess that upwards of 50% of users read every single damned word of that letter. And as you say, it was exactly the right thing to do, expressed in exactly the right tone.

    After reading the New Yorker profile of Zuckerberg a while back, I’d taken him for being largely an operator, but this has really upped my esteem of him. And what’s more, it seems that – unlike any of the proprietors of previous SNSes – he actually has a pretty good handle on what’s he’s got.

  2. Terrell Russell | September 8, 2006 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    jkd,

    Yes, he’s got a good handle on it. And if he didn’t before – he certainly does now.

    2 billion – that was the asking price right? I’d say that letter was worth at least a couple hundred million dollars. What’s that per word?

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