EFF in the News
For nearly two decades, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has fearlessly defended the digital universe.
Now its online heroes are teaming up with Randall Munroe’s stick-figure web-comic sensation Xkcd to celebrate with collaborative t-shirts and hoodies.
Electronic Frontier Foundation lawyer Kevin Bankston, for one, criticized Facebook for removing controls as it tried to simplify its privacy settings.
“Things get downright ugly when it comes to controlling who gets to see personal information such as your list of friends,” said Bankston. “Under the new regime, Facebook treats that information — along with your name, profile picture, current city, gender, networks and the pages that you are a ‘fan’ of — as ‘publicly available information’ or ‘PAI.’ Before, users were allowed to restrict access to much of that information.”
Other issues that remain problematic in this amended settlement were nicely summed up in a series of posts at the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Deep Links blog, all of them related to core library values.
Still, privacy organizations and some users are critiquing the move. In a blog post, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (disclaimer: my wife works there) called this part of Facebook’s privacy change “downright ugly.”
Users are “coming to share with whom they want to, which is not necessarily everyone on the Internet,” said Kevin Bankston, a senior staff lawyer at the group, nothing that these privacy distinctions were what always differentiated Facebook from MySpace, and the rest of the Web. “Now Facebook is clumsily trying to change the game and push users to share more than they ever have before.”
But the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco digital rights advocacy group, warned that new controls now eliminate the option to make that same information private even if the member chose to do so previously.
And Facebook has also dropped the option to block a friend's third-party applications, such as quizzes and games, from accessing profile information, said foundation senior staff attorney Kevin Bankston. That opens a member's personal data to third-party software developers even if the member doesn't use any applications, he said.
The new settings are supposed to make it easier and simpler to control your information, but the changes are drawing a mix of criticism and praise from privacy watchdogs such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California (ACLU), and the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC).
But criticism came from numerous quarters. Kevin Bankston, a senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, wrote that some of Facebook's new settings "have created new and serious privacy problems for users of the popular social network service."
That is troubling because "even something as seemingly innocuous as your list of friends can reveal a great deal about you," Kevin Bankston, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, wrote in a blog post. While it is still possible, he noted, to hide your list of friends from the public, the setting is hard to find — which goes against Facebook's aim of simplifying the privacy settings.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, an Internet civil liberties organization, is also criticizing the changes today, and saying that members could inadvertently publish to the world more information about themselves than they ever intended.
While acknowledging that many of the changes unveiled Wednesday will be good for privacy, Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Attorney Kevin Bankston said the social networking site is also removing some important privacy controls that it should have kept.
"I think you're better off in some ways and worse off in some ways," he said. "It's really a mixed bag."