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Facebook convenes privacy 'crisis' meeting

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Facebook has called a general meeting on privacy amid widespread user discontent over a succession of privacy-eroding changes by the social network.

The "all hands meeting" of Facebook staffers is due to take place at 4pm PDT on Thursday. It follows a critically panned attempt by Elliot Schrage, Facebook’s vice president for public policy, to justify its privacy stance in an online Q&A with readers of the New York Times earlier this week.

The unofficial allfacebook.com blog speculates that the meeting may result in the social network taking an opt-in approach to features that potentially expose users' private details, photos and opinions more widely. A temporary suspension of the recently introduced “Instant Personalization” service that involves the sharing of profile details with selected third-party websites is also a possibility.

Controlling individual privacy settings on Facebook has become an arcane process over recent weeks, as this visualisation of the 150+ privacy options the site offers by the NYT illustrates.

A timeline of Facebook's eroding privacy policy can be found in an article by the Electronic Fronier Foundation (EFF) here. The digital liberties group is highly critical of the long trend towards less privacy charted by the social network.

"Facebook originally earned its core base of users by offering them simple and powerful controls over their personal information," EFF writes. "As Facebook grew larger and became more important, it could have chosen to maintain or improve those controls. Instead, it's slowly but surely helped itself — and its advertising and business partners — to more and more of its users' information, while limiting the users' options to control their own information.

EFF has published advice on how to opt-out of Facebook's instant personalisation. Stung by Facebook's continuous lurches towards sharing more information with partners a growing group of users have begun deleting their profiles, a development that presumably prompted Facebook to convene a privacy pow-wow. ®

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