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Facebook's Eroding Privacy | ploked.com

Facebook’s Eroding Privacy

May 13th, 2010 |


Jeff Louis is a strategic media planner, brand project manager, blogger, and aspiring writer. He's intrigued by innovation overcoming adversity, survival of the fittest brand, history, reading, and similar fun stuff. He writes for sites and is the Public Relations and Advertising writer for the Chicago Examiner.

This is a site dedicated to social media. As such, it’s in the interest of those of us who contribute to Ploked to write informative posts for readers regarding the use of social media, and the numerous networking tools associated with social media, in our daily affairs. I fully acknowledge social media as a tool to increase business, and my posts reflect this belief. A professional media planner by trade, my job depends on determining as much as possible about consumers, using this information to better target advertising messages to potential customers. Obviously, the more information, the better the results.

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While striving to remain objective and professional, at times I have to question the level of blind trust that we, as consumers, provide to entities outside our immediate control, opting to allow online businesses the ability to access personal information, including birth dates, address, email, family members, friends, and online surfing behaviors. I’ve written posts that substantiate social media’s success at growing businesses. I’ve also written here–and on other sites–posts concerning privacy and the “information for access” model practiced by social media sites. The majority of these posts–questioning the use of personal information–concern Facebook.

Facebook was once a place to share among friends. As the site’s evolved, its morphed into a money-making phenomenon that changes the rules as necessary. Once Facebook respected, and protected their user’s privacy. Then, unforeseen and unprecedented, the site grew from college site to worldwide network in less-than a decade. Facebook ranks among the most popular online destinations, quick approaching half a billion users. Now, instead of respecting privacy, the site uses personal information as a means to make money.

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Founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, is 25-years-old and a billionaire. While to some he’s a genius, it’s in our collective interests to remember that Zuckerberg stands to gain by selling information…our information. It’s also important to remember that Zuckerberg, according to those who work for him, does not believe in online privacy. Unless, of course, its his own privacy.

Facebook turned on its users in an effort to improve their bottom-line. Highlighted by Wired:

“So in December, with the help of newly hired Beltway privacy experts, it [Facebook] reneged on its privacy promises and made much of your profile information public by default. That includes the city that you live in, your name, your photo, the names of your friends and the causes you’ve signed onto.

This spring Facebook took that even further. All the items you list as things you like must become public and linked to public profile pages. If you don’t want them linked and made public, then you don’t get them — though Facebook nicely hangs onto them in its database in order to let advertisers target you.”

Your employment info, books you’ve read, music you enjoy, or any like/dislike you label on your profile are all public now. If you don’t want something public, then delete it because there’s no other way to put it on your page. In fact, Facebook’s privacy controls have gotten so complex that it’s a daily endeavor to ensure you’re protected. Inside Facebook lists 17 steps with multiple layers; a total of 200 possible options.

Facebook’s “Big Brother” status grew when they revealed that our profiles–without consent–had been given to Yelp, Pandora, Microsoft, and others. Logging into these sites, according to Facebook, enhanced our  “interactive, personal experience” by linking us to these sites. Without permission.

So, while you may believe that Facebook has some privacy built-in, they don’t.  The first rule of privacy, as defined by Baekdal:

“I am the only one who can decide what I share.”

Unless, of course, you’re on Facebook.

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Jeff Louis
  • http://www.mijatovic.com/ Milan

    I think you're dead on. Another point that I think is worth mentioning is that Facebook owns your data regardless of whether or not you've deleted or changed it (they still have archival versions of everything you do). You can never move your data out of Facebook should you decide to terminate your account. So not only is your data not private, but it's also not even your's anymore!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=601462639 Markku Ranta

    Absolutely, Facebook has gone too far. In our startup company Fambit we are focusing to private ! social media for targeted micro-communities. In family context for example the users cannot accept leaking privacy practices, check it out: http://www.fambit.com

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  • Jesse

    I happily encourage others not to use it.

    This is a little testament to the time:


  • http://www.pessinlaw.com/miami-personal-injury-lawyer/ Miami Personal Injury Lawyer

    I know 3 people who have deactivated their facebook accounts and instead are using foursquare and twitter to stay in touch with people.