Facebook loses friends as privacy campaign grows

Source : http://www.guardian.co.uk

It's a fitting congruity that the simplest way to gauge Facebook's current woes comes via that other unchallenged behemoth of the internet, Google. Type "How do I ..." into the search engine and one of the first suggestions it comes up with continues: "... delete my Facebook account?" Today it was the ninth top-ranked search term, bringing more than 18m results.

Since it was devised a mere half-dozen years ago by Mark Zuckerberg and three Harvard contemporaries, the social networking site has grown at an astonishing speed, seeing off once-powerful competitors such as Bebo and MySpace. It has also attracted controversies, notably over the issue of a "panic button" for child users.

But this week Facebook has experienced perhaps the closest thing to a crisis in its brief history, with reports of an emergency staff meeting at its California headquarters about privacy issues.

Criticism has been mounting since a revamp of the site in December meant users' profiles became publicly accessible by default. Retreating back into anonymity also became an increasingly tortuous process, with profiles now featuring 50 separate privacy settings and 170 options. This was followed in March by more changes, including plans to automatically share users' information with outside websites.

While this has the potential to hugely boost Facebook's revenues through targeted marketing, it has angered campaigners, including the American Civil Liberties Union. This month EU data protection officials wrote to Facebook, calling the privacy changes "unacceptable".

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