Privacy and Facebook

May 4, 2010

A month or so ago, one of my young nieces sent me an email saying she wanted to share some pictures of the changes being made to her house by her dad (my brother). The only catch was that they were in a “private” area of her Facebook account and that I would have to open a Facebook account in order to link to them. So I spent the time to open an account (a lot of time, as I was being very cautious about what personal information I was putting up there for the world to see). And you know what? Even after I had a Facebook account, I still couldn’t figure out how to get to those photographs!

Learning a new computer program (or how to find your way around a social networking site) is very time-consuming at first, but the more you use it, the better and faster you become at it. It’s no surprise that the teenagers know all about the latest gadgets and programs—they take the time to play around with them. They have the time to really learn all the ins and outs of the programs, I-phones, Blackberrys, I-pads, and what-have-you. But the older you get, the less time you want to take to get over that initial learning curve. You decide that other things are more important—like raising a family, working a job to put bread on the table and pay all the bills. So we all make choices as to our priorities—and frankly, learning Facebook’s ins and outs is not a top priority for me.

But now we hear that Facebook is making some changes to what they do with the information they have accumulated on their 600 million users. I’ll sum up my main complaint below, but if you want all the details, here’s the link to the story: (link is no longer valid).

First, an observation: Facebook, Myspace and other social networking sites have captured the younger generation. These kids (and many young adults) give no second thought to spilling their private lives all over the internet billboard for the world to see. They have no idea of the downside, the evil uses that evil men can make of that information. We don’t have time to detail that here. What Facebook has done is lure 600 million people into giving some very private information about themselves—not just to “Facebook,” some supposed faceless, cyberspace entity—but to strangers, the very real people who own and control that company.

Of course, the Facebook newbie is assured that only the information you choose to share with the world will be public. The rest of the information which you plug into the Facebook forms will be kept private and only those whom you designate can have access to your private information—such as my niece wanting to share the photographs only with me and other close friends or relatives. Uh, yeah,…your private information will be kept private until we at Facebook decide to change the rules.

Now Facebook is simply changing their “policy” whereby they will begin to share your information with third-party websites (i.e., businesses) without your consent! If you don’t want your information shared, then you have to opt out. But that’s where it gets devious at best and a nuisance at the least.

“Last week, Facebook announced new features designed to unlock more of the data accumulated about its users during its six-year history.” Privacy issues aside, they intend to make more money by selling your private information to businesses who want to know about you. The link article gives you the steps to opt out, but check out this final step (emphasis by JWB):

“STEP 3: Even after you’ve done this, it is not clear whether you need to “opt out” at the sites where Facebook is intending to share your information, like Pandora and Yelp, and soon many more sites. [See what I mean about a nuisance? Who, besides teens with time to burn, has the time to even keep up with all that—just for one social networking site?!] So you will want to look at the upper left hand corner of those sites to see whether those sites are recognizing your Facebook account and activity. Here again, you need to opt out.

But a word of caution, as Facebook concedes, your information may still be shared through your friends’ accounts, unless you block the application from these web sites.” [More nuisances!]

Yes, nuisances and very time-consuming, not to mention the very real dangers to liberty given that a whole generation or two has no idea what privacy really means. It’s very disconcerting! As for me, I don’t need another avenue to invade my privacy such as Facebook. And I certainly don’t need the demands on my time just to “maintain” or “manage” my Facebook account! So I’m closing my Facebook account…just as soon as I can find the time.

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Category: Current Events