Facebook and Privacy, Should we be concerned?

Mark Zuckerburg’s explained his initial purpose for creating Facebook was “to help people understand what was going on in their world a little better. I wanted to create an environment where people could share whatever information they wanted, but also have control over whom they shared that information with.” (See:”An Open Letter from Mark Zuckerberg”). However, with all the changes and updates that Facebook has implemented over the years there should be much cause for concern.

Facebook has recently announced at the 2011 f8 development conference, that it will be updating a couple of its functions. The two new changes, “Ticker” and “Timeline.” function together to make possible “frictionless sharing” which is Facebook’s expression for allowing applications to automatically share user’s activity rather than having users initiate each instance of sharing themselves. In some cases, the new “frictionless sharing” features of Facebook can make it so that even when you’re logged out of Facebook, your browser is still tracking every page you visit, sending that data back to Facebook. (see: ”Logging out of Facebook is not enough” by Nik Cubrilovic) As Nik Curbrilovic stated with respect to the tracking cookies:

 “With my browser logged out of Facebook, whenever I visit any page with a Facebook like button, or share button, or any other widget, the information, including my account ID, is still being sent to Facebook. The only solution to Facebook not knowing who you are is to delete all Facebook cookies.” (Id)

With these new features there is an increasing concern about Privacy issues that Facebook has repeatedly come under scrutiny. Facebook has recently partnered with media companies that will permit Facebook users to acquire access to a variety of information and entertainment when using the Facebook platform. This will in turn allow Facebook and its partners to attain a tremendous amount of data about user’s behavior. That information could become accessible to advertisement companies for use in focusing advertisements, and potentially to government agencies that are interested in tracking people’s behavior.

“These changes in business practices give the company far greater ability to disclose the personal information of its users to its business partners than in the past,”

(see: Privacy Advocates Letter to F.T.C. requesting an investigation over Facebook’s new features).

In addition, Facebook has become a worldwide photo identification database. So one should ask why does it need facial recognition technology?  To automatically tag users in pictures?  This is a poor excuse and it really has nothing to do with people sharing information with one another. Facebook also advises it users that “you can opt out,” or adjust your privacy settings. This is another illusion as the only way to really opt-out is to not use the Social Network.

It is my opinion that Facebook has been increasingly insensitive to its users concern about privacy. This is becoming more clear as its repeatedly continues to increase the amount of information it has by making it public by default.

Until Facebook adopts a transparent policy about it privacy issues and the information it determines it will make public by default, I will continue to be careful of what I share on Facebook so long as I am a user of the site. I would suggest all users do the same.

 


Frank Lockwood, Senior Information Science Student, IIST 499

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2 thoughts on “Facebook and Privacy, Should we be concerned?

  1. I have to agree with Frank’s post. Privacy on Facebook has always been an issue but it makes you wonder how far they will go before its a matter of what company will own your information, as opposed to, which one of my friends will see it. Even though it was inevitable that Facebook would resort to some unethical measures in order increase revenue, their practice of using tracking cookies closely resembles that of "spyware" programs. Time will tell if Google+ will take over; after all they are subject to FTC audits for the next 20 years after Google Buzz user’s privacy concerns led to legal action. (http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2011/03/google.shtm)

  2. Franks post about Facebook and the F8 conference was very knowledgeable and proved great points about Facebook and their privacy issues. Without reading his post I would not know indepth about the Frictionless Sharing which is a great concern now for me as well as it should be for others. Also now that every website/blog/ anything on the internet has a widget for FB it makes tracking us easier and easier because the cookies just follow us from site to site and we dont have to sign in, and we completely forget what we are letting Facebook see as I browse the internet. Also with the photo identification is another key point, that now its just one big database and if anyone wanted too they could just run software and pull up all the pictures that resemble you. Scary especially now that every job/company looks at your facebook, its no longer your resume you have to stress about its the stream of information that is left on the internet.

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