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    USA Today: Facebook walks a tricky line weighing privacy vs. profit

    USA Today reports on social-networking site Facebook, which has faced criticism over its privacy policies:

    Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is betting that there’s almost no limit to what people will share and to how his company can benefit from it. “Our incentive is to give people the exact controls they want, so they can share the most information,” he says. “More and more people want to share information. That is where the world is going.”

    But can too much information be too much of a good thing? Social-networking sites — Facebook, in particular — face heightened scrutiny over their privacy policies from consumers, privacy advocates and legislators. […]

    Just last month, Facebook held a mea culpa press conference in which Zuckerberg apologized and the company overhauled its admittedly unwieldy privacy controls amid negative user feedback.

    The moves quelled some concerns but did not appease privacy advocates, who see an inevitable conflict between Facebook’s treasure trove of user data and the temptation to sell it to advertisers. […]

    [M]any Facebook members howled with outrage when the company in April announced a new feature that sends user profile information in bulk to companies such as Microsoft, Yelp and Pandora — in essence, broadcasting their habits and likes across the Internet.

    The feature prompted four U.S. senators — led by Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. — to demand Facebook only pass along data if users agree to it under a so-called opt-in feature.

    It also compelled Ben Edelman, a Harvard Business School professor and privacy expert, to accuse Facebook of sending personal information to online advertising companies without its users’ consent. Edelman made the claim in a letter of complaint with the Federal Trade Commission last month.

    Facebook officials say a “relatively rare combination of clicks” might have helped advertisers identify people who clicked on some ads before the company fixed a mistake two weeks ago.

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