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German group urges boycott over Facebook privacy shake-up

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A German consumer group is urging surfers to ditch Facebook in protest over proposed privacy changes, AFP reports.

The Federation of German Consumer Organisations (VZBZ) wants users to abandon Facebook for other social networks in order to pressure Zuckerberg's baby into reconsidering a controversial data sharing plan.

VZBZ wants a proposed scheme involving the sharing of Facebook users' personal information with "pre-approved" third-party websites to be opt-in only, AFP reports. At present users would be obliged to opt out if they objected.

If the revised privacy policy goes through, surfers may find that when they visit external websites it already knows their name, date of birth, who their friends are and other data they share with everyone on Facebook. The information will be shared without users' explicit permission.

Facebook is no stranger to privacy controversies. Previous revisions of its privacy policy pushed users towards sharing personal data and photos with everyone by default. Its Beacon ad network plans were also controversial.

The latest privacy shakeup is a step too far for VZBZ and for Ilse Aigner, consumer affairs minister, who earlier this week threatened to delete her Facebook account in protest at the social network's plans.

Germany is sensitive about privacy invasion for historical reasons, but concerns over the proposed privacy revisions are far from restricted to the country. An online survey by net security firm Sophos discovered that an overwhelming 95 per cent were opposed to the proposed changes.

Facebook's spin doctors sought to allay concerns about the proposals by saying the sharing will only happen with a small number of carefully selected third-party websites.

Some security experts are unconvinced by these assurances. A blog posting analysing Facebook's privacy policy by Sophos analyst Chester Wisniewski, for example, explains how Facebook's approach to privacy lacks the clarity of LinkedIn's policy.

He points out that Facebook has responded less quickly to privacy criticisms than the managers of Google Buzz, who quickly ditched the unloved contacts-exposing feature when its release was met with an outcry. ®

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