Facebook Fail? Privacy Concerns Abound on Popular Social Media Site

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How much of your information is Facebook sharing? Original image by Lockheed, compilation by VLN

What sort of information are we talking about here?

Everything.

Not just the information you put into Facebook when you signed up for the site, but also everything you’ve ever shared, every private message you’ve ever sent, everything your friends have ever shared with you or about you, and even every site you’ve ever visited on the Internet that has a facebook ‘Like’ button on it.

No, you don’t have to click the ‘Like’ or ‘Recommend’ or ‘Share’ button – Facebook gets the information from your cookies regardless.

What does Facebook do with that information?

Pretty much whatever they want. According to the Data Use Policy, “We use the information we receive about you in connection with the services and features we provide to you and other users like your friends, our partners, the advertisers that purchase ads on the site, and the developers that build the games, applications, and websites you use.

In other words, they use it to facilitate the prosperity of Facebook through advertisers and other revenue sources. They also add, “Granting us this permission not only allows us to provide Facebook as it exists today, but it also allows us to provide you with innovative features and services we develop in the future that use the information we receive about you in new ways.” That’s reassuring.

How Anonymous is the Data?

According to Facebook, “We only provide data to our advertising partners or customers after we have removed your name or any other personally identifying information from it, or have combined it with other people’s data in a way that it is no longer associated with you.” Unfortunately, however, as computer science becomes more and more advanced, re-identification algorithms become more of a threat to the type of program used by sites such as Facebook. If the method of removing personal data to provide bulk numbers is known, reverse-engineering the algorithm to re-discover that personal data is possible. In other words, you can’t be sure that your information will remain anonymous after Facebook provides it to a partner.

Social Media Fail

As more social media companies, such as Klout and Facebook, operate via terms of service that allow them to sell your personal information to advertisers and other business partners, security concerns may seem overwhelming. As a society, we are dependent on social media to share, to connect, and to network – but when does the intrusive nature of the social platform become too much? I welcome your comments on this matter.

Resources:

Franzen, C. Facebook Surveying Users About Their Friends’ Fake Usernames. (2012). TPM Idea Lab. Accessed October 15, 2012.

Flacy, M. Facebook wants you to snitch on friends that aren’t using real names. (2012). Digital Trends. Accessed October 15, 2012.

Rage Against the Minivan. #facebookfail: the fix for facebook’s private message breach. (2012). Accessed October 15, 2012.

Facebook. Data Use Policy. (2012). Accessed October 15, 2012.

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