Facebook Privacy Problems

Category: Facebook

Facebook, the most successful social media site ever with over 500 million members, is in a constant battle over members' privacy. It seems the company's business model is based upon invasion of members' privacy. In fact, that's exactly how Facebook got started! Here's what you need to know about Facebook and your personal privacy...

Protecting Your Privacy on Facebook

To create the prototype of Facebook, founder Mark Zuckerberg hacked into a protected area of Harvard University's computer network to copy student ID photos from nine residential houses' directories. The university quickly shut down the site (called Facemash.com) for copyright violations and invasion of privacy. Harvard considered expelling Zuckerberg but those charges were dropped.

Even today, Zuckerberg maintains that "privacy is no longer a social norm." That's the kind of mentality that is driving Facebook. In other words, "All your personal stuff are belong to us" is Facebook's default mode. If you want to control how the information you post on Facebook is used, you must constantly be on your guard.

Facebook's privacy policy has been heavily criticized as overly complicated, vague, misleading, and giving the company too much wiggle room to misuse members' information. The privacy policy is also constantly changing without notice, forcing privacy-conscious members to be ever vigilant. The company often introduces new features whose privacy implications are not readily apparent to members.
Facebook Privacy Problems

One "feature" reveals a member's mobile phone number and physical address to marketers. Facebook tried to introduced this feature a couple of years ago but had to freeze it when members revolted. Now the company is trying to bring it back with supposed safeguards; your phone number and address won't be transmitted to third parties unless you explicitly give consent. But privacy advocates claim that minors, especially, are unable to understand the implications of giving away such sensitive data.

Other Potential Facebook Privacy Leaks

"Tagging" a member in a photo seems innocuous until you understand that all of your friends, and those of the tagger, will be notified and shown the photo in which you are tagged. Do you really want all of your friends (who may include your spouse and employer) to see you in Las Vegas with Trixie and Candy?

Currently, Facebook's privacy settings can limit access to many types of member data to just the member, the members' friends, or allow everyone to view information. There are an estimated 275 settings to be considered on a Facebook profile, far more than most users can keep track of.

Facebook apps are another source of privacy concerns. It has been reported that dozens of apps forward tracking and demographic data about users to third-party advertising and marketing firms, often without the member's knowledge or consent. While this practice violates Facebook's rules for app developers, the company has not booted miscreant apps until members have raised an uproar about them.

The fact is that Facebook makes money by selling its members' personal information: who they are, what they do, what they buy, what they like, and who they associate with. Facebook will always try to maximize the amount of marketable data it collects from members, without regard for their privacy concerns.

If you want as much privacy as possible on Facebook, limit the information you make available. Here are some suggestions:

  • Make sure your "friends" are people you personally know. Unfriend any that you're not sure about.
  • Don't post comments or photos that you wouldn't want published in your local newspaper.
  • Remove your phone number, geographic location and other personal info from your profile. After logging in, click Profile / Edit Profile to make the changes.
  • Set all of the many privacy settings to "Friends Only". Click Account / Privacy Settings to control access to your status, photos, posts, and other information.
  • Avoid using Facebook apps.

Do you have tips related to Facebook privacy? Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Facebook Privacy Problems"

Posted by:

09 Mar 2011

I found this article interesting...and I particularly found the ubiquitous "On Facebook? Like Us!" icon to be hilarious in the extreme. Oh, irony.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Actually, I don't use the Facebook "Like Button" on my site. The widget I offer lets people post links on their own Facebook or Twitter pages.

Posted by:

13 Mar 2011

I have not had a facebook in a long time, but yet, I googled my name & a profile picture still appears that I used on facebook, do you know how I can delete this photo from ever coming up again????

Posted by:

14 Mar 2011

This is heavy. The difficulties and implications are so vast and far-reaching that I think few people will venture a comment on this one. It's like the March 2011 earthquake and tsumami in Japan: too terrible to contemplate.

Posted by:

Fast Ed
16 Mar 2011

You do have a couple of other options:

1. Use a fake name, (although that seems to be against the rules), or a different location.

2. My favorite (it's what I personally do): Don't put your personal information on a publicly viewable page -- I am probably the last person in the civilized world who refuses to set up a Facebook page.

Posted by:

16 Mar 2011

Facebook and privacy:
1) It's FREE. You already know there's no such thing as a free lunch. What do you think they get in return for providing global access to free webspace? Ads? They don't even begin to pay for the incredible costs.
2) YOU are the ones providing the information. And then you wonder why Facebook hasn't taken extra steps (for free) to protect you from yourself? They're not mindreaders. They don't know what you want kept secret and what's okay to let everyone see.
3) It IS a social media, just like a bar or party. If you say something, expect others to overhear, and since they don't know you weren't really supposed to say it, they'll repeat it.
4) I'm not SO desperate for friends that I'll accept anyone who wants to be my "friend." But, really, THAT'S the secret to Facebook, isn't it? Friends for people who wouldn't be friends if they ever met them in person?

Posted by:

Glenn P.
16 Mar 2011

Fast Ed -- you're not the last, I am. I don't Facebook, I don't Twitter, I don't Myspace, I don't IM, I only do E-Mail and a modest webpage, with tightly controlled personal info. And that's it.

Posted by:

16 Mar 2011

"Facebook, the most successful social media site ever" ??? Just because a lot of us have been pressured to use FB, ... and because we are constantly complaining about its lack of service(s) and/or privacy - that's "successful"??? Boy, am I "olde Worlde". Success, as I was trained, is honesty, true service, the customer comes first, but you don't give them destructive options. What I see being touted as a "business model" is more like bilk the poor saps, razzle-dazzle them into using your stuff and then sell everything you can about them to anybody with money to throw at you. Back in my day, that was called a "PIMP".

Posted by:

16 Mar 2011

My facebook philosophy is this: anyone stupid enough to use Facebook or any of it's competitors like Foursquare, Linkedin, or whatever deserves everything they get.

Posted by:

16 Mar 2011

Loading this article popped up two advertising windows and a third embedded in the page, and put 9 cookies in my browser to track my movements from page to page. There are 8 rollover links that pop up ads from Kontera, which also tracks browser actions. There are 11 Google ads -- Google also tracks you, and if your browser is logged into Google, they know who you are and keep a history of all your actions online which persists even when you clear your browser history. The "Share" button at top right is provided by ShareThis, which also collects personal data, as do all of the social networking services it allows you to share on, not just Facebook. And the paid advertisers, H&R Block and Radio Shack, are notorious senders of junk mail. And you're criticizing Facebook? On what grounds?

Posted by:

17 Mar 2011

Have not and will not ever set up a facebook. Keep giving it away people. And keep complaining about big brother the whole time.

Posted by:

18 Mar 2011

Hi,first at all,I have to say thanks for helping me.
The question that I wanna ask is I use my facebook account,but I didn't like the page that shown in my facebook there. Then,I deleted the page from my profile and I did so for swveral times. That page is still at my place and it cannot be removed..how comes? I'm so mad about that! Can you please help me? I need your help seriously...Can you just reply my question by replying to my email? Thank you!

Posted by:

22 Mar 2011

Just leave Facebook and join YOHOLLA.com it's the only private site for social networking and it's blowing up. $5 bucks a month but well worth it for no ads and better control. Facebook KIller? Maybe...

Posted by:

27 Mar 2011

Terrific comment by 'Ben', above. Insightful, pointed, accurate, and deserves a response from the blog's author, IMO.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Without arguing about whether cookies and/or online advertising are inherently evil, I'll say this... There's a big difference between selling personal (non-aggregated) details about a person (what FB is apparently doing); and using ad networks, which (at best) provide advertisers with generic profiles that do not personally identify any particular user.

Posted by:

Max Mayer
24 Jul 2011

One of the things that must be mentioned is the amount of privacy data that's leaked when Internet users use Facebook Connect. I am of the opinion that in the zeal for openness on the Internet, Facebook has long crossed the line on privacy.

We've analyzed Facebook Connect (as well as it's Twitter counterpart) at http://goo.gl/VDekO

Posted by:

20 Feb 2014

Regarding FB purchase of WhatsApp, it's been said there is no such thing as a free lunch. While free messaging seems attractive to users, consider that WhatsApp reviews all the contacts on your phone for "matches" with users registered on their system and "presto" your contact list on WhatsApp is created.

What is unknown is what if anything is done with the names, phone numbers and addresses that are reviewed from your contact list.

Personally, I don't think WhatsApp or Facebook needs access to that information. Not that anyone would ever question Facebook access or use of your personal or contact information. ;)

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