Under fire from critics, Facebook updates Internet privacy measures

Facebook will now allow users to receive a notification when an unauthorized device is used to sign on to their accounts. Will the Internet privacy update be enough to silence the critics?

Facebook has upgraded its site security.

Well, it's not exactly the sweeping changes suggested by the European data commission. Nor will it silence the thousands of Facebook critics around the globe. But a new update announced by Facebook today should go a long way towards bolstering Internet privacy and security on the world's most popular social networking site.

According to Facebook's Lev Popov, beginning today, Facebook fans can flag the devices they use to sign onto the site – an Apple iPhone, for instance, or your laptop – and then request a notification when someone logs on to their account using an unapproved device. A similar functionality has long been available on platforms such AIM, but until now, it was absent from Facebook.

In a blog post, Popov sought to assure Facebook users that the site was – and always has been – relatively safe. "We've built technical systems that operate behind the scenes to quickly detect and block suspicious behavior, delete phony posts and messages, and return compromised accounts to their rightful owners. Most of these systems are invisible to the average person who uses Facebook," Popov wrote.

"Very few people will ever experience a security issue on Facebook, which means that most of you have probably never noticed these systems at work. Rest assured that these systems are there, though, protecting you and your friends," he added.

In March, a Facebook bug exposed the private email addresses of many users, and erased the functionality that allows users to hide some contact information. Then in May, several blogs reported the existence of a new bug – one that apparently allowed users to peruse their friends' private chat messages, and even see other users' pending friend requests.

Both bugs were patched quickly, but not before critics could argue that Facebook was being cavalier with user data. The Article 29 Working Party, a group of European data protection authorities, has sharply criticized Facebook, and encouraged the social media site to revise its controversial new plans to expand its platform across the Web.

Facebook, the Working Party said, needs a "a default setting in which access to the profile information and information about the connections of a user is limited to self-selected contacts. Any further access, such as by search engines, should be an explicit choice of the user."

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