MoveOn’s Facebook Privacy Campaign: Pot, Kettle, Black?

Judging by the astounding rate at which MoveOn’s Facebook group ‘Petition: Facebook, stop invading my privacy!’ is gaining members, it’s clear that there is a great deal of public concern surrounding the way in which the site is using user data.

One of the key privacy issues for MoveOn, according to the petition group page, is the fact that Facebook’s new ‘Beacon’ ad format automatically shares information about a user’s activity gathered on third-party sites.

The text in the group description, presumably written by MoveOn, states, “Facebook says its users can ‘opt out’ of having their private purchases reported to all their friends. But that option is easily missed.”

It continues; “The obvious solution is to switch to an ‘opt in’ policy, like most other applications on Facebook.”

I couldn’t agree more! However, an interesting comment on the group wall was pointed out to me yesterday. A member has posted the following:

“Well, I tried to write this yesterday but it looks like it was removed. I’d love to sign a petition, but I am not going to sign something that will automatically subscribe me to emails. Sorry.”

I took a look at the petition on the site earlier today. The privacy policy is outlined at the bottom of the page and reads; “MoveOn will send you updates on this and other important campaigns by email. If at any time you would like to unsubscribe from our email list, you may do so.”

Correct me if I’m wrong, but this reads very much like an ‘opt-out’ policy to me. Admittedly, if someone is interested enough to sign an online petition, the assumption is that he or she will want to be updated on its progress. However, I’m not sure that sending e-mail updates on campaigns that MoveOn deem to be “important” really passes as an acceptable use of user data.

To avoid hypocrisy therefore, perhaps MoveOn should take some of its own advice. To quote their Facebook group description once again, maybe “the obvious solution is to switch to an ‘opt in’ policy” for future e-mail correspondence.

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