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I'm kind of burned out on covering the issues surrounding Facebook, but the company keeps making the news with either their growth - now 400 million users, half of which login every day - or their corporate gaffes, especially with privacy issues.

The company is now backtracking on some of their privacy policy changes made since last December, and a change that affects hundreds of millions of people is news, no matter what.

Facebook has admitted to feeling pressure from users for turning previously private info public, automatically sharing information with other sites, and even blanking out user's information in other Facebook profiles if a user refused to share that information.

This latest news is an announcement of changes Facebook will make to user account privacy settings; the company promises to make those choices easier to navigate. Right now, users have nearly 150 separate decisions to make to opt out of many categories of publicly sharing personal information.

The announcement came in the form of a column for the Washington Post written by Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's founder and CEO (http://markratledge.com/link/zuckerburg/).

But the piece reads like a mediocre essay for a business writing class. It's full of generalizations, panders to the reader and ignores the source of the backlash itself: Facebook's unilateral privacy policy changes.

Facebook is unwilling to address the real issue: An option to "opt-out" of all information sharing, as opposed to an automatic "opt-in" as default.

There is a growing backlash to quit Facebook, and other upstart social networks promising total control over information have been gaining traction. That has Facebook nervous.

But Zuckerburg has demonstrated over time that he is really little more than a billionaire teenager, with all the immaturity and presumptuousness that youth provides and money can buy.

I don't expect much to change. Facebook will continue to try and pry open the privacy walls and continue to say they are responding to user desires for a more "open society," when Facebook is simply promoting these nebulous societal changes they "recognize" for advertising revenue.

Sure, Facebook is a free service. We all choose to use it. But Facebook keeps showing that changing the rules of the game midway is its way of business.

In a few weeks, let's see how easy those new privacy controls really turn out to be. And if the default "opt-in" will change to "opt-out" in the future.

Mark Ratledge is an information technology consultant. His website is http://markratledge.com

 

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