Privacy Woes

It's not been much of a secret that Facebook has been in the press a lot lately.  And the more worrying thing about it is, it's been in the press a lot for the same reasons.

Privacy, Lack Thereof, and Your Information.

Now, if you've not seen any of it, it's probably a good idea to pay attention here, because your personal info could well be smeared across any number of websites you've visited, your data could be being used to target you with spam, and you could be getting signed up for random shit.

Right now.

A while back, Facebook changed it's privacy settings.  You may have seen the big box that read something like "We've made it easier to adjust your privacy!" which was very nice.  I bet most of you went "Ooooh *yawn* *close box*"  Fact is, that those settings were changed to various default states that lets facebook do what it likes with your info.  Even slightly more worrying was the fact that your FRIENDS could also use your data too.

Not good.

The geeks of the world pointed this out to the non-geeks of the world, and suddenly there was a rather large hoo-har over it all.

What people don't realise is that the guy that runs it has a pretty shady past according to the media.  Even the idea and internal gubbins of Facebook were written by a friend.  A former friend of his.  After he nicked it.  Hence him having to make a multi-million dollar out of court settlement...

Advertising is king on the internet - it's how Google make their money and can afford to give all their stuff away for free.  Microsoft is realising this, and that's why they've teamed up with Google to try get a slice of that rather nice advertising pie.  So Facebook - who also makes it's money through adverts - has decided that YOUR personal info is now THEIR personal info.  And when you're not on Facebook, you actually are, and the sites you visit that happen to have signed an agreement with them are quite happy to see who you are, where you're from, what you do, what other sites you visit...

The worst part - much like Yahoo doing something similar 8-10 years ago - is that you have to opt OUT.  That's right, the default setting is "Why yes of course you can look at my personal info!" which means you have to go in an change it.  The worst thing, is it's buried.  If you're not sure of your way around settings and options, you've got a mission on your hands.  Especially when you consider that the "new easy use" privacy settings have 170 options.

170.

So, what do you do?  Well, you could go in, and fiddle with all the settings and piss around with what-not and hope for the best.  You could get your Not-Dan-Computer-Geek to help sort it out for you.  Or, you could try this tool over at ReclaimedPrivacy.org

THANKFULLY it's as easy as clicking, dragging, pressing some buttons, and job done.  The instructions are all very clear and easy to use, and bare in mind that I thought I'd managed to set my Facebook page to nice and private.  Turns out, I'd missed a couple of settings.  Oops.

Honestly, follow the instructions, get yourself secured.  It'll only be a matter of time before someone manages to get your info and do something with it...  Except, me not being a nefarious hacker, I'm not sure what they would do, but I'm betting something.  People are quitting Facebook in droves (I'm not saying it's dying mind you, but they ARE leaving) for various alternatives that are cropping up, and even various media outlets are suggesting "Maybe it's time to try something else"

Good luck out there ;)

Sources:

Facebooks new privacy changes:
http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2009/12/facebooks-new-privacy-changes-good-bad-and-ugly

Facebook reduces control over personal information:
http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2010/04/facebook-further-reduces-control-over-personal-information

Things to stop doing on Facebook:
http://finance.yahoo.com/family-home/article/109538/7-things-to-stop-doing-now-on-facebook

Facebook's gone rouge:
http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2010/05/facebook-rogue/

Essential privacy tips:
http://mashable.com/2010/05/18/facebook-privacy-tips/

What happens in Facebook stays in Facebook:
http://www.albumoftheday.com/facebook/

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5 Responses to “Privacy Woes”

Anonymous said...

Hey Dan!

Me being the obedient little thing that I am and not wanting all the nasty people to get their dirty mits on my info, clicked on your link to the reclaimed privacy site....but it doesn't work! I get the "oops" message!

Help....please!:-)

Mel

Dan said...

Ooops sorry Mel, my mistake... it's http://www.reclaimprivacy.org/
Have fixed the link now
-Dan

Nancy said...

Wow, I had no idea it was THAT big of a deal. I set my privacy settings awhile back but I didn't even think to make sure my two teenagers did it.

and... the reclaimprivacy thinggy.... are you SURE it's a safe feature and not just someone else wanting to take our info?

By the way, great blog post!

Adullamite said...

I have yet to use that feature but a quick search did show so many things I had missed!
Thanks for this post!

Nancy said...

I've sent all 3 of my sons here to check out your post and they are changing their settings. Well, 2 sons have and I'll ask the other one today to make sure that he did it. I also posted on fb that they should all come over and read this blog post. It's quite informative! Thank ya so much!