Facebook Pressured to Push "Panic Button"

Meanwhile, Canadians mass for class action lawsuit

By Jackson West
|  Monday, Jul 12, 2010  |  Updated 5:45 PM PDT
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Facebook Pressured to Push "Panic Button"

Jenn Van Grove explains Facebook's changes to its privacy settings and how the differences will effect users.

Users of Facebook in the United Kingdom will be able to install an application which British authorities feel will provide a "panic button" for kids worried about predatory adults.

Bebo and MySpace had already installed such a feature, which was pushed by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, which tracks registered sex offenders.

Facebook had argued that its existing reporting services meant there was no need for such a feature, but after the kidnapping and murder of a 17-year-old who was tricked by a 33-year-old man posing as a teenager on Facebook, bowed to pressure.

Instead of implementing the feature on all pages for users under 18, instead Facebook will advertise an application, ClickCEOP, which younger users can install to report any suspicious behavior.

Child protection concerns aren't the only ones facing the Palo Alto-based company.

Fallout continues from the company's decision to publicly expose the profile pictures and lists of friends for all users -- including children -- earlier in the year.

The company has since changed its privacy settings, but that hasn't stopped a class action lawsuit in Canada alleging the company broke privacy and consumer protection laws. Similar suits are already on the books in the United States.

As for whether Facebook will make unilateral changes in the future without a user's consent? It's pretty much a given according to Vice President of Product Chris Cox, who argues that by signing up for Facebook you've agreed to the company's every whim, all while arguing that Facebook is now a critical piece of Web infrastructure.

Jackson West hasn't opted out of Facebook yet, but he's hardly opted in much, either.

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