Facebook Responds

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It's been right at one month since I posted the article What would Orwell do?. It was a sort of investigative exposé (and conspiracy theory) regarding the VCs who are currently funding Facebook.

I knew that the article would garner some attention; after all, Facebook has over 8 million users (and is growing by the day). After it was linked to by Andy Baio and briefly showed up on del.icio.us/popular, I realized that it might garner a bit more attention than I had originally thought. Traffic has been steadily rising, and about a week ago Blogger threw my name up there as a "Blog of Note", bringing in thousands and thousands of international readers a day. A lot more attention than I'm used to. I knew it was only a matter of time before the actual subjects of the article caught wind of it (if they hadn't already). I just wasn't sure who would respond - Facebook? its investors? I even wondered if a black suburban was going to show up at my office to make me "disappear."

Well, today I finally heard something from Facebook. I got an e-mail from Chris Hughes, Facebook's spokesman. He said:
I ran across your blog today and I’m contacting you to clarify some of your claims.

Firstly, the clause you reference in the privacy agreement is leftover from an outdated version of the privacy policy which is currently being updated. We used to have a couple features on the site that aren’t still there, such as collecting users’ away messages from AIM (if they said they wanted it) and displaying mentions of their names in campus newspapers (again, upon request). That clause will not be included in the upcoming version of the privacy policy which will be released in the next couple of weeks.

Secondly, quite simply put, we have absolutely no relationship with any government agency. Contrary to these rumors, we are not harvesting data for the CIA or any other group.

I really appreciate the candor of his response (I suppose that's his job), and it's encouraging to hear these clarifications. I think the most imporant part of what he has to say is that the creepy privacy clauses were for features that no longer exist and that the features could be enabled and disabled by users. I'm anxious to see the new policy, and I'm sure I'll put something up about it.

In his comment, he also invited any more questions "about Facebook or the way [they] manage information." This is interesting and encouraging. I'm considering sending him some questions about Facebook and exactly how they manage all the data they've got. Not only that, but I'm just really interested to know about the future of the service. It's growth over these short 2 years is really remarkable (which is why the information I discovered was so disconcerting).

What questions would you ask Facebook? What would you like to know more about if I were to conduct an interview? Feel free to comment with your thoughts and ideas, or e-mail me if you prefer.

Once again, thanks to Chris Hughes for responding. As I told him in an e-mail response:
This is the clarification I was hoping for. I was hoping to hear it from someone like you in clear terms like these. I am not typically a rumor mill, and my intentions were not to cause any trouble. On the other hand, I do feel like any free service which is made more usable by its users should be able to withstand such inquiry and remain transparent without fear.

Check back for more information about Facebook, its policies and its future.

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