The DL on Facebook

New privacy settings, profile changes and the option to link all words in our profiles. Is this really in our best interest or does Facebook have something else in mind?

According to Gizmodo, it’s the latter. A recent article entitled “Top 10 Reasons You Should Quit Facebook,” suggested that Facebook’s privacy policies have only gotten worse with time, becoming more vague and allowing for more user information to become publically available.

All things considered, I’m not so sure that Facebook’s privacy changes are really as threatening as everyone thinks they are.  First of all, the #9 reason in the article is that “Facebook’s CEO has a documented history of unethical behavior.” However, upon reading further, the author asserts that the so-called “documented” history is “unproven and somewhat dated.”

But that aside, I started to take a look at recent changes that Facebook has made to its terms of service and privacy policy.  I’ll be picking apart some of Gizmodo’s assertions here, just to play devil’s advocate.

Facebook’s Terms of Service are One-Sided

The article says that Facebook owns all of our data. But the Terms of Service say otherwise: “You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared through your privacy and application settings.” Yes, users have to grant Facebook rights to their content. How are we going to be able to put content on the site and share it with our friends if Facebook doesn’t have an IP license to use it?

Here’s what Zuckerberg has to say (read the full article here):

When a person shares something like a message with a friend, two copies of that information are created—one in the person’s sent messages box and the other in their friend’s inbox. Even if the person deactivates their account, their friend still has a copy of that message. We think this is the right way for Facebook to work, and it is consistent with how other services like email work.
Read more: http://techcrunch.com/2009/02/16/zuckerberg-on-who-owns-user-data-on-facebook-its-complicated/#ixzz0nGFh3Jlj

Facebook’s “War on Privacy”

If Facebook didn’t want to promote user privacy, they sure have an interesting way of showing it. Yes, the site is currently fighting a battle regarding its choice to make everything opt-out instead of opt-in, but what about the recently-added, simplified security page?

It’s a misconception that “simplified” means “less security.” Facebook had to address a long-standing complaint that its privacy settings were far too complicated. With such a wide audience demographic, the social network took backlash from users who had accidentally posted comments or photos without understanding their privacy settings.

Yes, the privacy settings appear to be less secure, but the new site layout allows for easy editing and updates of personal material, as well as and option for users to customize every wall post.

Private Data is Shared with Applications

This is true. There is currently no way for third-party applications to differentiate between the information that they actually need to connect to your account, and the rest of your personal information available on your account.

But that’s just it. We are putting all of this so-called “private” information onto Facebook.; onto the Internet where it will be subject to hackers, third-party applications, advertisers and occasionally some unwanted viewers. The real issue at hand here is education. Facebook posts all updates and changes to privacy settings in its Press Room: http://www.facebook.com/press.php#!/press.php

I’m not sure how many users know where it is or how to find it. I think that this information should be more accessible—potentially on the home page of Facebook so that all users will view descriptions of updates upon logging in.

A Big Omission

Something that the Gizmodo article fails to mention is Facebook’s recent work with the Canadian Privacy Commissioner. The social network was open to updating its privacy policies in compliance with Canadian law.

Canada has taken many measures in order to extend privacy regulations to encompass personal information online—including information available on social networking sites.

If Facebook is willing to accommodate and update its settings in accordance with other countries’ laws, it is likely that the site will adapt its Terms of Service in the future.

The thing to remember is that this is an online forum, and any decisions to post personal information on profiles should not be made lightly.

Just for Fun

Now for a bit of humor. Check out this funny parody about Facebook in “real life.”

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1 Comment

Filed under MediaIssues

One response to “The DL on Facebook

  1. You’ll probably get a kick out of this article. Doesn’t it feel like every few months we hear about how “this time Facebook has gone too far” and all that happens is the site gets more members. Last semester we had classmates blogging about how the revamped news feeds would trigger a Facebook backlash. I think you’re right to dismiss the current issue as something that will be forgotten by year’s end.

    http://www.slate.com/id/2253827/pagenum/all/#p2

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