Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player


Facebook and declining privacy

BY TYLER HAKES | APRIL 28, 2010 7:30 AM

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

I’m not sure how I feel about Facebook anymore.

As someone who was initially reluctant to sign up for the social network, I’ve gotten my fair share of use from the site. I’ve added friends and joined groups. I’ve promoted events, made new contacts, and created a fan page.

But I find myself suspicious of cofounder Mark Zuckerberg’s true intentions, especially with the site’s latest “integration” features.

Initially, Facebook was simple: a way to connect with people. Eventually, it was obvious that Facebook needed to make money — and it did, by offering advertising on the second most-visited website in world.

It added value and information and let users interact in new ways. (Remember, it wasn’t until recently that you could “Like” the fact that “I’m having a bad day.”) But as Facebook continues to evolve and its revenue model seems to be changing, I’m stuck asking myself — was giving Facebook my information such a good idea?

Most people will probably think I’m being paranoid. But this isn’t just an Orwellian piece about privacy.

The addition of making Pandora Internet radio more “social” by letting people see what their friends are listening to (one of the latest features) seems nonthreatening. The worst that can happen is that you’ll be publicly ridiculed for the Justin Bieber radio station you never thought your friends would find out about.

But Pandora isn’t the only company that wants to tap into Facebook to find out more about you. And with the recent release of Facebook’s new “social plugins,” the social-networking site won’t be the only one with access to it. There are real implications of giving one company so much information — and probably ones we can’t even think of yet.

Along with sites across the web being able to integrate the most famous features from Facebook (“Like”ing, Sharing, etc.), these sites will be able to access profile information from users who don’t manually opt out.

Everything from your Facebook page (your jobs, your groups, your musical preferences, your friends, and even your location) follow you around the Internet and are used to direct marketing efforts.

This could raise some serious issues for those who have loaded their profile page with personal information, expecting only their close friends and family to have access to it. The main concern with Facebook is that while it has plenty of options for configuring privacy settings, its default setting is full-throttle: Show all of my information to anyone. When coupled with its habit for resetting these settings on a whim, it seems Facebook’s main goal is to get its hundreds of millions of users to relinquish control over their personal information.

And that’s a problem.

As Randall Bezanson, a University of Iowa professor of law, put it: We practice information control with people we meet in real life all the time, and we should do the same online.

“In the digital world,” Bezanson explained to me, “privacy law has been conceived as an interest in control of the user. You’re responsible for the dissemination of your own information.”

Bezanson said that once users have agreed to privacy policies presented to them by websites, it’s usually “fair game.” Unless there’s a legal issue with the policy itself, the company retains the rights to the information that you give it, which can include selling it to third parties.

This means it’s the sole responsibility of Facebook users — which totaled 103 million as of last year — to keep their privacy settings on a level they’re comfortable with, no matter how many times they may be mysteriously reset to that full-throttle mode. It may seem like common sense (“Just set your privacy controls, dummy”), but in the world of evolving technology and electronic privacy policies, it can sometimes be difficult to understand how your information is being used.

Now, excuse me while I set my profile to “private” for the 23rd time today.

> Share your thoughts! Click here to write a Letter to the Editor.

comments powered by Disqus

Daily Iowan Advertising
Today's Display Ads | Today's Classifieds | Advertising Info

Follow the DI through:


Sponsored Links  
T-Shirt Design  
Insurance Leads Charlotte Web Design
Health Insurance Leads Home Equity Loans
Life Insurance  
Custom Magnets DMI Furniture
Solar Products Custom USB
Chris Powell Buy a text ad


Privacy Policy (8/15/07) | Terms of Use (4/28/08) | Content Submission Agreement (8/23/07) | Copyright Compliance Policy (8/25/07) | RSS Terms of Use

Copyright © The Daily Iowan, All Rights Reserved.