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Facebook Schedules Thursday Privacy Meeting

On the agenda for Thursday's meeting: growing concerns about the site's privacy policies among individuals, groups, and government officials.

In light of increasing complaints by both end-users and consumer advocacy groups, Facebook will convene a general meeting to address growing concerns about the site's privacy policies at 4 p.m. PDT Thursday.

The confab of Facebook staff could result in an opt-in approach to features that could widely broadcast account holders' private details, opinions, and pictures, according to allfacebook.com, the self-proclaimed unofficial Facebook resource. This could include suspending the recently introduced -- and much-maligned -- Instant Personalization tool that shares profile information with third-party websites, the site predicts.

Some critics are calling for changes to Facebook's social plug-ins, which often function which users cannot opt-out of and operate even when users are not logged on to the site.

Recently, Facebook has come under attack from individuals, groups such as the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), the Center for Digital Democracy , the Consumer Federation of America and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, and politicians including Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Mark Begich (D-AK), and Al Franken (D-MI).

Fifteen privacy and consumer protection organizations have told the Federal Trade Commission and Congress that the social network is violating consumer protection laws.

In a PR move, Elliot Schrage, vice president for public policy at Facebook, on May 11 responded to users' questions in the New York Times -- a move that apparently backfired, based on the preponderance of responses posted online and in blogs. Schrage addressed topics such as executives' profile preferences, opt-in vs. opt-out, search engines and user feedback. "Everything is opt-in on Facebook. Participating in the service is a choice. We want people to continue to choose Facebook every day. Adding information -- uploading photos or posting status updates or “like” a Page -- are also all opt-in. Please don’t share if you’re not comfortable," Schrage wrote.

This response generated howls of incredulity in the reader community.

"When I joined Facebook, there was no such thing as Instant Personalization. Then one day, I logged back in and found my Instant Personalization box already checked," wrote one reader. "I found personal information exposed that we were told in writing was private. How is that opt in?"

Whether they are driven by privacy concerns or fed-up with the amount of time they spend updating their accounts, Facebook users are curious about the social networking site's farewell policies, and some are choosing to quit the site.

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