95% of Facebook users oppose privacy policy changes, Sophos poll reveals

Sophos Press Release

Are social networks eroding privacy?

A survey released today by leading IT security company, Sophos, reveals that controversial changes Facebook is planning to make to its privacy policy are being universally slammed by users.

The study, conducted amongst 680 readers on Sophos's website and Facebook page, found that an overwhelming 95 per cent of the respondents think the privacy changes are "a bad thing."

Only two per cent of the respondents polled said that they would support the change, with the remaining three per cent saying they did not understand what changes Facebook was proposing.

Facebook privacy poll

In March 2010, Facebook proposed a number of controversial changes to its privacy policy, paving the way for it to share personal information with "pre-approved" third-party websites. This means that, if you're logged into Facebook and then visit a third party website, that site will be able to access the following:

  • your name
  • your profile picture
  • your gender
  • your friends and connections
  • your userid
  • any content shared using the "Everyone" privacy setting

Consequently, users may find that when they visit a website it already knows who they are; their date of birth; where they live; and who their friends are. All, without ever having given the site explicit permission to access that data. According to Facebook, only a small number of pre-approved sites will be offered this feature, and users will be given the option to disable the feature.

As a result of a rise in public consternation around these changes, Facebook published a response which sought to justify its position and to reassure users that the company would only offer personal data to "carefully selected partners". It also outlines that partners would be "required to provide an easy and prominent method" for users to opt out directly from their websites and delete any cached personal data.

"The results of this poll send out a very clear message to Facebook - its users aren't happy. Most Facebook users still don't know how to set their Facebook privacy options safely, finding the whole system confusing and long-winded," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos. "The onus should not be on Facebook users to "opt out" of this new feature but to "opt in" - making a conscious choice to engage, rather than having to make a conscious decision to decline."

"Once again, it feels like online privacy is being eroded by stealth. Too many websites are chipping away at their members' privacy and security, potentially exposing their personal data to third parties that were never in the equation when they first signed-up for the service," continued Cluley. "Facebook would be doing its hundreds of millions of users a service if it thought again about this new privacy policy."

More information about the poll is available on Graham Cluley's blog.

Facebook users who wish to keep informed about the latest developments in internet security and privacy are advised to join Sophos's Facebook page.

More than 100 million users in 150 countries rely on Sophos’ complete security solutions as the best protection against complex threats and data loss. Simple to deploy, manage, and use, Sophos’ award-winning encryption, endpoint security, web, email, mobile and network security solutions are backed by SophosLabs - a global network of threat intelligence centers. Sophos is headquartered in Oxford, U.K., and is publicly traded on the London Stock Exchange under the symbol “SOPH.” More information is available at www.sophos.com/company.