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Facing privacy criticism, Facebook unveils new security tools

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-05-14

Popular social networking site Facebook has unveiled new security features that will prevent hacking, following a growing storm over privacy issues. Critics claimed some Facebook features compromise the privacy of its more than 400 million members.

AFP - Facebook has added new security tools to prevent hacking and held a staff meeting at its California headquarters amid a growing storm over privacy at the social network.

The new security features, unveiled Thursday, include giving members the ability to approve which devices they commonly use to log on to Facebook -- a home computer or a mobile phone, for example -- through an "Account Settings" page.

"Once you've done this, whenever someone logs in to your account from a device not on this list, we'll ask the person to name the device," Facebook software engineer Lev Popov said in a blog post.

Facebook members would receive an email notification or a text message if someone tries to access their account from a device that has not been approved.

"This notification will provide steps on how to reset your password and remove the device, so you can quickly secure your account if it's being accessed from a device you don't recognize," Popov said.

He said Facebook had also built in controls to "block suspicious logins before they happen" by asking for proof of identity, such as a birth date.

The new security tools were unveiled as Facebook comes under fire from US privacy and consumer groups, lawmakers and the European Union over new features that critics claim compromise the privacy of its more than 400 million members.

Amid the criticism, Facebook held a staff meeting at its Palo Alto offices to discuss its privacy strategy.

A Facebook spokesperson confirmed the meeting in a statement to several technology blogs but said details of the internal discussions would not be released.

"We have an open culture and it should come as no surprise that we're providing a forum for employees to ask questions on a topic that has received a lot of outside interest," the spokesperson said.

The new features introduced last month include the ability for partner websites to incorporate Facebook data, a move that would further expand the social network's presence on the Internet.

A European Union group slammed the recent changes this week, saying "it is unacceptable that the company fundamentally changed the default settings on its social-networking platform to the detriment of a user."

The EU group, known as the Article 29 Working Party, said user profile information "is limited to self-selected contacts" and any further access "should be an explicit choice of the user."

Last week, over a dozen US privacy and consumer protection groups filed a complaint with the US Federal Trade Commission accusing Facebook of "unfair and deceptive" practices.

"Facebook continues to manipulate the privacy settings of users and its own privacy policy so that it can take personal information provided by users for a limited purpose and make it widely available for commercial purposes," they said.

And four US senators, in a letter to Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg last month, said they worried that personal information about Facebook users is being made available to third party websites.

The senators expressed concerns about privacy ramifications saying "Facebook now obligates users to make publicly available certain parts of their profile that were previously private."

Sharing personal information should be an "opt-in" procedure in which a user specifically gives permission for data to be shared, they said.

Date created : 2010-05-14

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