Facebook Privacy Settings

Category: Privacy

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...

Facebook Privacy

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."

Facebook disingenuously claims, "it's all about giving our members choices," as if choices are good things. Well, they are, in moderation. But to fully manage your privacy in Facebook, you now must read Facebook's 5000-word privacy policy, and deal with over 50 opt-in/opt-out settings which have 170 options between them. And even if you set all those correctly, some of the privacy settings DO NOT APPLY to the Facebook apps you may be using. That is not "choice." It's an example of the old saying, "If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with BS."

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...

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Most recent comments on "Facebook Privacy Settings"

Posted by:

15 Jun 2010

I don't post outrageous stuff on Facebook, anymore than I'd brag about outrageous stuff with bare acquaintances. Online or off, some things are only shared with Trusted friends.

There have been horror stories about employers searching the web to find information about their employees. Me, I'd rather not work for such a picayune, busybody company, but not everyone has such options. Still, if someone's boss is searching the web to see what he can find, your job is already in trouble.

The real problem is Spam is ever-increasing, and a lot of it is the fault of otherwise reputable companies, the same ones that invented paper junkmail. Facebook is only joining the rest of the hordes.

Posted by:

15 Jun 2010

If you're foolish enough to use Facebook, Myspace, etc. then you deserve everything you get. Just remember TANSTAAFL, (There ain't no such thing as a free lunch).

Posted by:

15 Jun 2010

I feel like such an innocent. I don't ever post things on FB that my mother would not want to see. My FB is clean BUT.... last week my name was sent to many people requesting they sign up on FB. I also showed my husband , myself, and one of the grandchildren.
I have been getting calls all week reegarding this violation of my privacy. I can't seem to find a phone # for FB so I can let them know how I feel... and my comments will probable not be so innocent.

Posted by:

18 Jun 2010

That 60% was based on a survey of about 1275 people. That doesn't amount to millions of people.
1275 out of about 500 million is a pretty small survey. Facebook continues to grow. (Some improvements have been made and some more are needed)

Posted by:

02 Nov 2015

Why did facebook change the format for the social media pages? I HATE IT. I know facebook doesn't care for anyones feelings but now I have no entertainment in my spare time at home. I am 75 years old, used to love posting comments or sharing pictures that I like and think my friends and family would like. The new format is like one picture over another picture. Can't share anything. Don't have access to everyone on my feed unless I spend so-o-o much time clicking down. No where is there any fun anymore. You guys made it very hard for me once when I had no private phone number and no cell phone for my personal ID. I was cut off from facebook for a long time. You don't have to cut me off this time - I'm cutting you off.

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