For those who haven’t been paying attention (or who haven’t logged on to Facebook lately), Facebook’s 350 million users are being asked to refine their privacy settings with a new software tool that allows users to dictate who has access to each category of content the user uploads to the website. Critics have slammed the updated privacy settings in large part because of certain personal information that is deemed public to all Facebook members: your name, city, gender, photograph, your lists of friends and “fan” pages, and networks to which you belong. Facebook is also being criticized for the default privacy settings, which would allow a user’s status updates and other content to be shared with anyone on the internet. On December 17, 2009, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (“E.P.I.C.”), joined by nine other privacy and consumer organizations, filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission asking for an investigation into these changes, which the complaint describes as “unfair and deceptive trade practices.”
For example, Facebook’s new policy includes a bullet point summary of key points at the beginning of the policy followed by section headings that allow users to jump to particular areas of the policy. Complex legal terms have been replaced throughout the policy by more basic language, with hyperlinks to pages containing more detail on key terms or issues. On Facebook’s company blog post detailing the new policy (available here), the company commits to adding additional definitions of key terms, screen shots of important pages, and “learn more” video content.