Thursday, 13 May 2010

Privacy concerns with Facebook

Facebook privacy?
When I joined Facebook I felt comfortable sharing personal information because Facebook's privacy settings were very good, allowing the user to fully control every bit of information you publish to Facebook. But times have changed! Facebook has changed direction and privacy seems to be a mere afterthought now.

Facebook started off with an attitude of respecting the user's privacy, which was great. Unfortunately they have changed their privacy settings over time to make it increasingly difficult to protect everything you publish on Facebook.

Facebook's privacy changes in April - frowned upon

Their latest privacy changes (announced at Facebook's F8 conference in April) were frowned upon by most analysts. It's almost as if Facebook does not listen to their users at all, ignoring any backlash after a major privacy update.

Facebook's new Instant Personalization Pilot Program lets you share your information with third party websites... I'm not comfortable with that at all. Facebook always seem to make the changes regardless of whether their users like it or not and users only find out afterwards, once it's already been done. Then those who are concerned about their privacy have to quickly jump around and "fix" the privacy settings (again) but it's getting more and more difficult to do that.

Opting out

Case in point, I was logged into my Facebook account and then visited another website Engadget (or it could have been Mashable, can't remember), then Facebook granted access to apps from those sites automatically. I then visited my Facebook Applications Settings page and that website was already listed there! At no point did I give explicit permission to share information with external sites. Facebook gladly did that "on my behalf". I had to manually visit the Facebook application page for that site and block the application explicitly. So they're making it tougher to 'opt-out' as time goes by.

Facebook is feature-rich but please respect my privacy

Facebook makes sharing info with friends a pleasure and there's a multitude of other fantastic features that the social networking site offers. But a lot of users are uninformed about Facebook's persistent drive to open everything up for all to see, since that will obviously have financial benefit for Facebook due to marketers having access to your info/preferences for better advertising revenue.

The flip side of the coin is that it's perhaps convenient for the user to visit different websites and always be recognised on those websites since you're already logged in to your Facebook account. The part that I have a problem with... is the fact that I'm having less and less of a CHOICE in the matter. I'd prefer to opt-out beforehand instead of trying to solve a privacy issue afterwards.

Instructions on how to protect your privacy after Facebook's latest privacy changes in April

Opt out of Facebook's Open Graph personalization - WikiHow
Opt out of Facebook's Open Graph personalization - AllFacebook
How To Opt-Out Of Facebook’s Instant Personalization - Electronic Frontier Foundation

With Twitter the situation is different because you know from the start that everything is public, so you (should) only make statements you are willing to make in public anyway. But with Facebook there's a trust that was initially established between Facebook and the user, based on the initial strict privacy settings that was available. That trust is now being tampered with.

If Facebook loosen up their privacy settings to such a degree where I'm left without any control over the (access to) information I publish on Facebook, I'll have no choice but to consider closing my account.

Facebook plans privacy summit

It was announced today that Facebook will be holding a privacy summit after a large group of users, critics and lawmakers showed their dissatisfaction about the growing Facebook privacy issues. I hope something positive comes out of this because Facebook is a great social networking platform, if the privacy issues are addressed.

Video: Funny look at what Facebook would be like if played out in real life

Related links
How to Keep Your Privacy Safe(r) on Facebook - PCWorld
Facebook: Confirm or Deny? - TechNewsWorld
Are you a victim? - MyBroadband

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