In a rare show of responsiveness by a large corporation to millions of individual clients, Mark Zuckerberg, founder of the Facebook website, admitted that his popular social networking tool had moved “too fast” and “missed the mark” in terms of growing privacy concerns.

Writing candidly in the Washington Post Mr. Zuckerberg said his company would be responding, now that it had heard the recent concerns about users of his site lacking adequate controls over how their private information was being used.

Facebook has over 400 million users worldwide.

“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,” Mr. Zuckerberg noted. He added, “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.”

Evidence would suggest that he may be right — a website called Quitfacebook.com that has recently sprung up exhorts Facebook members to close down their accounts and quit the site on May 31 2010. Quitfacebook.com already has over 14,000 Facebook members committed to the planned boycott.

Quitfacebook.com argues that Facebook “gives you choices about how to manage your data, but they aren't fair choices, and while the onus is on the individual to manage these choices, Facebook makes it… difficult for the average user to understand or manage this.”

The lobby site also argues that recent changes in Facebook’s privacy policy, allowing application developers to keep user data stored by Facebook indefinitely, are proof that the company is “further encroaching on its users’ privacy”.

Simpler privacy controls

In a bid to redress such serious user concerns Mr. Zuckerberg conceded the need for a simpler way to control user information. He promised, “In the coming weeks, we will add privacy controls that are much simpler to use. We will also give you an easy way to turn off all third-party services. We are working hard to make these changes available as soon as possible.”

Further he sought to reassure users who worried that their personal information may be shared in ways they did not want. Mr. Zuckerberg said, “I'd like to clear that up now. Many people choose to make some of their information visible to everyone so people they know can find them on Facebook. We already offer controls to limit the visibility of that information and we intend to make them even stronger.”

Touching upon what he considered the “core principles” of Facebook, Mr. Zuckerberg said they included the following: user control over how their information was shared; Facebook not sharing users’ personal information with people or services that users did not want; Facebook not giving advertisers access to users’ personal information; Facebook not selling any user information to anyone; and Facebook management promising to “always keep Facebook a free service for everyone.”

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