A bill of privacy rights for social network users?

I spotted this via Twitter this morning – a bill of privacy rights for Facebook folks, and social network users in general:

Proposed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation:

“Social network services must ensure that users have ongoing privacy and control over personal information stored with the service. Users are not just a commodity, and their rights must be respected. Innovation in social network services is important, but it must remain consistent with, rather than undermine, user privacy and control. Based on what we see today, therefore, we suggest three basic privacy-protective principles that social network users should demand:

1: The Right to Informed Decision-Making

Users should have the right to a clear user interface that allows them to make informed choices about who sees their data and how it is used.

Users should be able to see readily who is entitled to access any particular piece of information about them, including other people, government officials, websites, applications, advertisers and advertising networks and services.

Whenever possible, a social network service should give users notice when the government or a private party uses legal or administrative processes to seek information about them, so that users have a meaningful opportunity to respond.

2: The Right to Control

Social network services must ensure that users retain control over the use and disclosure of their data. A social network service should take only a limited license to use data for the purpose for which it was originally given to the provider. When the service wants to make a secondary use of the data, it must obtain explicit opt-in permission from the user. The right to control includes users’ right to decide whether their friends may authorize the service to disclose their personal information to third-party websites and applications.

Social network services must ask their users’ permission before making any change that could share new data about users, share users’ data with new categories of people, or use that data in a new way. Changes like this should be “opt-in” by default, not “opt-out,” meaning that users’ data is not shared unless a user makes an informed decision to share it. If a social network service is adding some functionality that its users really want, then it should not have to resort to unclear or misleading interfaces to get people to use it.

The Right to Leave

Users giveth, and users should have the right to taketh away.

One of the most basic ways that users can protect their privacy is by leaving a social network service that does not sufficiently protect it. Therefore, a user should have the right to delete data or her entire account from a social network service. And we mean really delete. It is not enough for a service to disable access to data while continuing to store or use it. It should be permanently eliminated from the service’s servers.

Furthermore, if users decide to leave a social network service, they should be able to easily, efficiently and freely take their uploaded information away from that service and move it to a different one in a usable format. This concept, known as “data portability” or “data liberation,” is fundamental to promote competition and ensure that users truly maintains control over their information, even if they sever their relationship with a particular service.”

How’s Facebook’s social graph doing three years on?

It’s three years since Mark Zuckerberg proclaimed the power of the social graph? Well its certainly progressed from the 24 million active users it had it May 2007. Here’s what he said, as reported by ZDNet on the subject. Interesting to note that Ning has had a few problems since then, shedding its free service to most users, while Gina Bianchini has left the company – I guess that’s freedom for you. Anyhow it’s time to get into the time machine and turn the dial to May 2007:

Zuckerberg attributed the power of Facebook to the “social graph, ” the network of connections and relationships between people on the service. He said, “It’s the reason Facebook works.”

“Its changing the way the world works,” he said, pushing information out faster than any big company can. “As Facebook adds more and more people with more and more connections it continues growing and becomes more useful at a faster rate. We are going to use it spread information through the social graph.” The net effect of the social graph is that groups and application can achieve exponential growth, he said.

“The Facebook platform is optimized for building applications in Facebook, and with more value for people to develop on our base than we could do on our own. People are already building social apps, but they have to reconstruct the social graph all by themselves. We are going to allow developers worldwide to do complete new things. Today social networks are completely closed nets…today we are going to end that. With this [framework] any developer worldwide can build full applications on top of the social graph inside the Facebook Platform.”

Gina Bianchini, CEO of Ning, which makes another social networking service doesn’t agree that Facebook is going to bring the end closed social networks. “All freedom is good, but when people get a taste of type of freedom Facebook is launching today, they want more than a bite. A tightly controlled service can be successful, but fundamentally people want freedom at every level,” she said.

Facebook is open to third parties to integrate on top of the service, but you do have to inhabit the Facebook’s walled garden, social graph. On the other hand, a controlled environment like Facebook can leverage the huge network of people and allows for targeted innovation.

I guess Mr Zuckerberg is doing is trying to make sure that Facebook has the largest possible social graph, and any issues around privacy controls need to be therefore considered in that context. Obvious when you think about it. Anyhow take a look at Mashable’s view on the subject, in this piece from April this year, with the launch of the new Open Graph API and protocol and the “ability to integrate websites and web apps within your existing social network”, the point is that “public no longer means “public on Facebook,” it means “public in the Facebook ecosystem”.