Saturday, May 24, 2014

Facebook Privacy Check-up

The New York Times reported the other day that Facebook is offering a "privacy check-up" to subscribers. Apparently the growth of privacy-friendly services such as SnapChat and WhatsApp has caught the attention of Mr. Zuckerberg. Facebook is acquiring WhatsApp this year, according to the Times article. But Snapchat has a strong privacy policy, where they delete "snaps" from their servers and from users' devices once viewed. Snapchat allows users to more easily control what information the service collects and to control with whom they share information on the site (read the privacy policy).

WhatsApp, a "cross-platform mobile messaging app which allows you to exchange messages without having to pay for SMS," does not fund its service through advertisements that depend on user information. (Read "Why we don't sell ads"). It appears to be free for the first year (at least on the versions I checked), and then 99 cents a year thereafter. WhatsApp's privacy policy is contained in their "legal" or Terms of Service. It appears at the bottom of the page. They make the information clear, easy to understand, and easy to control. They also take some pretty good steps to secure the information users do send them against hacking. The policy includes a warning "in the event of merger, sale or bankruptcy" that the policy may change.

However, the Times article makes it sound as though Zuckerberg is seeing some financial benefit in making it easier for users to control the ways his company/companies collect and use their personal information. Both because European laws regulate this much more closely than the U.S. and because consumer pressure is building for more consumer control in this area, the article makes it sound as though Facebook and Zuckerberg are becoming privacy converts. Time will tell if they stay converted!

The image decorating this blog post is the WhatsApp logo from their home page.

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