10 Ways Facebook Can Improve Privacy and Security

News Analysis: Facebook is in trouble. The company's privacy and security initiatives are failing to win users' confidence and are drawing unwanted attention from lawmakers and regulators. Until Facebook starts following the right cloud strategies and adjusts how it works with users, more trouble could be on the way.

Facebook is in a world of danger. The world's largest social network has been facing increased pressure from privacy advocates, legislators and its users over what some see as an unacceptably weak level of privacy and security on the site.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said recently he understands what the critics are saying and plans to improve the company's privacy settings to make them easier to use. The CEO said in a recent e-mail exchange with well-known tech blogger Robert Scoble his company has "made a bunch of mistakes," and he plans on correcting them. But it won't be easy.

Users are growing increasingly concerned about the overall security of the site and the privacy of their personal data. Although Facebook says it wants to do everything it can to safeguard users, it also has to remember its business model, which relies on the free exchange of personal information. That said, something needs to be done.

For too long now, people have been criticizing Facebook for its seeming willingness to share as much information as users will allow. All that needs to stop now. Facebook has a responsibility to keep user data safe and private. And it needs to remember that.

Here are 10 things that Facebook must do to increase user privacy and security.
1. Listen to users

Facebook needs to spend more time listening to its users. Although the company realizes that it can't always give in to users' demands, it also needs to realize that the users need to be happy with the way things are going. That can only happen if it starts listening to what the users want. They don't want to have to deal with complicated privacy settings. They also don't want to have to worry about security when talking to friends. If Facebook started listening to its users more often, it would have a much easier time running its business.

2. Ads aren't everything

Part of the reason Facebook is facing all this trouble today is its desire to increase its bottom line through advertising. The company fully understands that the more open profile information is, the easier it is to attract advertisers that want to target a specific portion of its user base. Although that's entirely understandable, it's also starting to come back and bite Facebook. Advertising revenue can still be a key component in its revenue, but it can't dedicate its operation to that. Facebook Credits could be even bigger for the company and that feature doesn't inherently call Facebook's privacy and security settings into question. Look beyond ads, Facebook. It's safer that way.

3. Third-party partners can't always be trusted

Facebook has started sharing profile information with some of its third-party partners. Several privacy advocates have railed against this policy, saying that type of transfer of personal information isn't helping users in any way. They make a solid point. If Facebook is truly dedicated to increasing the privacy of its social network, it can't simply trust that the information it shares with third parties will be handled responsibly. That's not to say that third parties can never be trusted. But as consumers have learned time and again, the more companies that have their hands on a user's information, the worse it could potentially be for that user.

4. No users means no money

Facebook is in a dangerous position. The more the company alienates its user base, the more uncertain its future becomes. It can't forget that Facebook won't exist without users communicating with friends. Recently, a group was formed that plans to "quit" Facebook by the end of May if things don't get better on the site. So far, more than 10,000 folks have signed up. Granted, that's not a huge number, considering Facebook has 400 million active users. But it could be the start of something much bigger. Facebook should be concerned about its future. And it needs to realize that making users happy should be its first step.

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger is a longtime freelance contributor to several technology and business publications. Over his career, Don has written about everything from geek-friendly gadgetry to issues of privacy...