Facebook Privacy Settings
Facebook faces a mutiny from its millions of users. The company has outraged, exasperated, and frightened almost every user who has paid any attention to recent changes in his or her Facebook connections and privacy settings. If you are not paying attention, you should. Here's why, and what you need to do...
Is Facebook Selling Your Privacy?
By the new defaults in its privacy settings, Facebook really means, "you have no privacy." Everything you do on Facebook is made public, searchable, and available to third party marketers by default. As Facebook has tweaked their privacy settings, and the rules concerning what may be shared with third parties, Facebook users have gotten more confused and upset. In fact, a recent survey by the security firm Sophos found that 60 percent of Facebook users are considering quitting, due to privacy concerns, and another 16 percent have already done so.
What on Earth was Facebook trying to accomplish that went so horribly wrong?
Facebook has to make money somehow. It's a corporation and "maximizing shareholder value" is its sole purpose. To make money, Facebook must sell its assets to someone. Facebook's primary assets are advertising space, and the personal information of its members: their identities, demographics, incomes, likes and dislikes, online activities and purchases, and social connections. So to maximize those assets, Facebook decided to cash in on their members' privacy and called it "choice."
Well, people don't like to be baffled. Many have simply deleted their Facebook accounts, opting out of all privacy invasions with a single click (although Facebook makes it very difficult to find the "delete my account" button).
What Do You Like?
Another example of the problem, in addition to the baffing array of privacy settings, is that if you "like" some page on Facebook, you get a persistent social connection to that page's owner instead of just the passing comment you intended. Now the page's owner can intrude upon you any time he likes. It's like saying, "nice hat" to a passing stranger and then having him stalk you wherever you go. It's creepy, annoying, and it can be dangerous.
A related issue is the ability that Facebook has recently given webmasters to place Like or Recommend buttons on web pages outside of Facebook. Clicking these buttons will automatically post a comment on the user's Facebook profile, and privacy pundits are concerned that this feature will give Facebook sleathy powers to track people as they move around the web, and compile demographic data that can be sold to marketers.
Restricting Your Facebook Privacy Settings
But there is an option in between leaving Facebook and having everything you do there sold. You can manage your privacy settings so that only information you don't mind having sold is available for sale. That's a daunting task if done manually. But already, at least one free online tool has arisen to make the job easier.
Reclaimprivacy.org provides a free Java bookmark applet. Just drag its icon to your browser's bookmark toolbar. Then go to your Facebook privacy settings page and click on the ReclaimPrivacy icon to start a scan of your privacy settings. The scan's report will tell you what's being shared with whom, and help you decide what to do about that.
The obvious question you should have at this point is "How do I know that this ReclaimPrivacy tool is safe to use?" If you didn't have that question, either you don't care about privacy, or you're not thinking enough about it. If your little red flag DID pop up, rest assured that the ReclaimPrivacy tool is "open source" which means that it is a collaborative effort, and anyone can inspect the code to verify that it's safe to use. Further, once you download the scanner, it communicates only between your web browser and Facebook, so your facebook data is not exposed to any third parties.
Do you have something to say about Facebook privacy? Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 4 Jun 2010
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Facebook Privacy Settings (Posted: 4 Jun 2010)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved