In a post to the Facebook blog, Michael Richter, Facebook's Deputy General Counsel, shared some of the proposed policy changes and noted, "We hope you'll take the time to review all of the changes we're proposing and share your comments." Most of these changes seem uncontroversial, but then there's this:
In order to provide you with useful social experiences off of Facebook, we occasionally need to provide General Information about you to pre-approved third party websites and applications that use Platform at the time you visit them (if you are still logged in to Facebook). <Augie's Note: This means if you're logged into Facebook and visit a site Facebook has pre-approved, some your data will be shared by Facebook.> You can also remove any pre-approved website or application you have visited here [add link], or block all pre-approved websites and applications from getting your General Information when you visit them here [add link]. <Augie's Note: This means the program is opt-out rather than opt-in–data will be transmitted without your express approval.>
It's possible and even likely that these features could be quite useful to consumers, but in the absence of details, examples, or even a list of potential partners, the reaction has been substantial and uniform: The combination of data sharing and opt-out is getting a thumbs down.
As of my writing of this blog post, 956 comments have been posted to the Facebook blog. I cannot view all 956, but the dozens that are accessible range from concerned ("Explicit OPT-IN is the only acceptable option" and "I need to be able to explicitly give MY permission to any additional web sites asking for my information") to the outraged ("screw you facebook" and "Facebook, are you trying to suck?"). (Some other comments were even more unprintable.)
On the one hand, it could unilaterally make the proposed change and let the cards fall where they may. Many of the comments to Facebook's blog threaten departure if these changes are implemented, but will consumers give up their connections, photos, and social games so easily? And given the strong reaction to the proposed change, would the company find partners willing to be early adopters for this new Platform functionality if Facebook ignores the feedback and proceeds as planned?
It will be interesting to see how Facebook deals with the feedback it is receiving. The company helped create a world of greater transparency and consumer empowerment; now it has to live in that world.