It seems like on a weekly basis, Facebook rolls out a new feature that prompts users to accuse the site of playing a 21st-century Big Brother. However, an attorney-turned-tech entrepreneur feels that Facebook is actually one of the better social media sites, in terms of respecting users’ rights. Andrew Nicol recently launched Clickwrapped, a comparison of the terms of service and privacy policies on sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Wikipedia and Twitter. Of the 15 sites Clickwrapped studied, Facebook was ranked fourth.
Nicol started Clickwrapped in hopes of it becoming something like a report card for the Web. It grades four categories: Data Use, Data Disclosure, Amendment & Termination, and Miscellaneous. Facebook, surprisingly, did quite well in these tests. The site placed fourth overall, trailing Wikipedia, Dropbox and Google.
Nicol points out that Facebook largely puts privacy controls in users’ hands, does not cancel an account unless it is in clear violation of its terms and services agreement and promises to consult users prior to modifying the terms and services agreement.
However, the site does have some areas to improve. Clickwrapped dinged Facebook for several infractions, including its ownership over content that users submit, the fact that it tracks activity on other websites users visit and its lack of transparency about government requests for user data.
Nicol discussed with AllFacebook his reaction to his findings with regard to the social network:
I came into this obviously having read a lot of the press about Facebook and the other companies that I researched as well. Facebook, because it has more data about more of us, it just simply attracts more press just because it’s so big. With more power comes more responsibility. Facebook could do a lot of damage in the privacy arena, if its policy and practices were really bad, but I think it gets quite a bit of press for that reason. But at the same time, I don’t think a lot of people realize that it compares pretty well to a lot of other social networks in that there are actually a lot more restrictions on what it can do with your data. I was surprised that it ended up scoring as well as it did, but I think that does reflect where it is.
Nicol is hoping to expand Clickwrapped, adding critiques of more websites. Ideally, he said the site will break down into categories (social networks, commerce sites, photo-sharing sites, etc.) and become a deeper base of analysis.
Readers: Were you surprised to see Facebook ranked so high in this study?
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