Facebook Staff Meets to Discuss Privacy Policy as Backlash Gains Momentum

Faced with a growing wave of bad press, Facebook held a companywide meeting Thursday to address a series of privacy debacles that have occurred over the past couple of months.

What a discussion that must have been. Earlier this month, TechCrunch Europe reported that a security hole on Facebook enabled some of its user's private chats to be visible to their friends, who now may, or may not be, their friends any longer. But even more unnerving for the company has been the backlash it has received since it revised its privacy policy.

The "Opt-Out" Controversy

In recent months, Facebook has started requiring users who want to keep their information private to "opt out" in their privacy disclosure settings. That means the information of users who are unaware of the change or who do not properly opt out would be shared with the public. Even if a user opts out of everything, some of their information, like their hometown and where they went to college, will still be made public unless the user deletes that information from their profile altogether.

The issue has been compounded by the fact that, as the The New York Times points out, Facebook's privacy policy is not only confusing but it also exceeds the word count of the U.S. Constitution.

The change in the privacy policy has sparked a firestorm of criticism from the media, government officials, privacy advocates and users alike. Many once-loyal Facebook users have declared that they are looking for ways to exit the site. According to the blog Search Engine Land, "how do i delete my facebook account" and "delete facebook account' have recently been among the top search terms on Google.

Could Facebook Fall From Grace?

All of this is quite a turnaround for a company that once was considered the golden child of social networking. It's the site where everyone has a presence: members of Congress, business executives, the famous, the not-so-famous, family members -- and sometimes even family pets.

Before the meeting started, Facebook said: "We have an open culture and it should come as no surprise that we're providing a forum for employees to ask questions on a topic that has received a lot of outside interest. We don't comment on the specifics of internal meetings."

Another topic employees may wish to delve into is whether a growing interest among users in deactivating their Facebook accounts could hurt the company's prospects for an initial public offering.

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