Facebook CEO: 'We Missed the Mark' with Complex Privacy Controls

In a column published in the Washington Post, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitted some missteps with Facebook's privacy controls and repeated a pledge that the social networking site would simplify its privacy settings in the coming weeks.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made headlines earlier this year when he declared privacy was no longer a "social norm." But in a column published today by the Washington Post, the CEO admitted Facebook's privacy controls may have "missed the mark."

"Six years ago, we built Facebook around a few simple ideas," Zuckerberg wrote. "People want to share and stay connected with their friends and the people around them. If we give people control over what they share, they will want to share more. If people share more, the world will become more open and connected. And a world that's more open and connected is a better world. These are still our core principles today."

According to Zuckerberg, the challenge is to facilitate the sharing of information while preserving user choice and control - all the while keeping the experience simple for everyone.

"These are issues we think about all the time," he wrote. "Whenever we make a change, we try to apply the lessons we've learned along the way. The biggest message we have heard recently is that people want easier control over their information. Simply put, many of you thought our controls were too complex. Our intention was to give you lots of granular controls; but that may not have been what many of you wanted. We just missed the mark."

In a radio interview May 18, Facebook Director of Public Policy Tim Sparapani said the company planned to simplify its privacy settings due to the ongoing controversy. It is not clear yet how Facebook will change the settings, but Zuckerberg re-iterated that the modifications will be rolled out in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, the battle about the site's -personalization' feature and default privacy settings continues to percolate. During the past few weeks, Facebook's critics have gone as far as complaining to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Security vendor Sophos conducted an online poll recently that found many respondents were considering leaving Facebook due to the controversy. Of the roughly 1,600 people surveyed, 60 percent said it is either "highly likely" or "possible" that they will leave Facebook due to concerns over privacy. Just 24 percent said they either wouldn't leave or it is "not likely." The remaining 16 percent of the respondents had already left the site.

"Social networks are a top concern among IT security teams from a proprietary data sensitivity perspective and that it poses an additional route to malware infections," Mike Haro, senior security analyst at Sophos, told eWEEK.

Though Zuckerberg acknowledged missteps, he stressed some of Facebook's core principles are to give users control over how their information is shared and to not share personal information with people or services users don't want.

"Facebook has evolved from a simple dorm-room project to a global social network connecting millions of people," the CEO wrote. "We will keep building, we will keep listening and we will continue to have a dialogue with everyone who cares enough about Facebook to share their ideas. And we will keep focused on achieving our mission of giving people the power to share and making the world more open and connected."