New privacy settings on Facebook, which came into force yesterday, have drawn widespread criticism from internet and civil liberty groups.
Kevin Bankston, from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, claimed that several of the supposed improvements had created new and serious privacy problems for users of the popular social networking service.
"The new privacy changes are clearly intended to push Facebook users to publicly share 'even more' information than before," he wrote in a blog post. "Even worse, the changes will actually 'reduce' the amount of control that users have over some of their personal data."
Bankston acknowledged that the new changes had simplified the privacy settings by reducing the overall number of settings and making them clearer for users, but he maintained that the positives are outweighed by the negatives.
"The privacy transition tool that guides users through the configuration will recommend the setting to share content with everyone on the internet, even though the previous default level was limited to 'Your Networks and Friends'," he said.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has also criticised the changes, citing the risk posed to users. Nicole Ozer, technology and civil liberties policy director of the ACLU, highlighted concerns over the types of personal information which are now set as shared by default, rather than privately, as under the old settings.
"For example, as of last Friday, sensitive information like relationship status and gender preference was available only to your friends by default; now Facebook encourages users to make this information available to 'everyone'," she wrote in a blog post.
However, the ACLU did concede that forcing Facebook's 350 million users to think about privacy is a good thing, and that it is pleased to see the site finally putting privacy "front and centre" for every one of its users.
The Electronic Privacy Information Centre added its voice to the dissent, saying that the privacy recommendations suggested by Facebook may result in a greater disclosure of information than users intend.
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