Facebook has been receiving backlash over its plans to track websites and apps that users visit, despite the company having been praised in recent months for its efforts to be more privacy aware.
In the past, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been famous for saying that privacy was not a social norm in a society that shared everything. Despite this, recent moves by Facebook show that Zuckerberg may be changing his opinion on privacy.
In June of this year, Facebook expanded its ad network and gave users an explanation of why they were seeing the ads that came up on their news feed.
This is in stark contrast with Facebook's opinions on privacy from when it first started gaining popularity. According to Mark Zuckerberg, people could either post their thoughts publicly in a blog or privately in an email. Facebook was designed to go in the middle.
Despite this seemingly clear outline, Facebook has had a rough history with privacy. While the point of the social network is to share information, that doesn't mean that everyone wants to share everything to the whole world. The company recently conducted a study on users moods, attracting a lot a criticism from both users and privacy advocates.
In June, Facebook announced that it would begin tracking some of the websites and apps that users were visiting in an attempt to serve users more relevant ads.
"When we ask people about our ads, one of the top things they tell us is that they want to see ads that are more relevant to their interests," the company said in a statement.
Despite this, Facebook may have to face privacy watchdogs from the Trans-Atlantic Consumer Dialogue, who say that users were not properly notified of the company's intentions. According to the privacy advocates, experiments such as the one announced in June will greatly increase the amount of data that Facebook has, while keeping users in the dark.
Privacy advocates have even sent letters to the Federal Trade Commission and the Irish Data Protection Commission, which oversees Facebook in Europe. These letters expressed the need for Facebook's ad policy to be examined to ensure that the company complies with U.S. and European laws.
This is a bump in the road for Facebook, who seemed to be trying to win users trust by simplifying privacy settings and better notifying users of changes. In fact, in April the company issued users a detailed explanation of their privacy settings in general, as well as allowing users to log in to third-party applications without having to share their personal information.
Facebook has declined to give any statements on the issue, but the hope is that it will continue to make efforts toward being a more privacy-aware company.