Thursday, April 21, 2011

Facebook and Privacy

My mother is worse than a pit bull and she tends to get on a topic and not let go.  Her latest rant is about Facebook.  She may have a point on this one, though because she is convinced that Facebook is taking away our privacy.

My mother’s page was set up by a friend of hers.  She really doesn’t do anything with it except occasionally go in there and look at some pictures posted by her friends.  She doesn’t play games, or stalk people, or post anything.  She is really quite computer illiterate content to use the computer for email, word processing, photo printing, and the occasional Internet search. 

If you really think about it Facebook really has invaded our lives, and there have been several privacy issues since its inception.   In 2007 some code was accidently made public and caused user information to be available to people other than who they intended it to.  In 2009 Facebook launched a system that sent information about users to a game site, which prompted concern because the script allowed movements a user made to be public.  The news feed and mini-news feeds, which members can opt out of, display everyone’s information on their friend’s pages and very few members opt out, or know how.  Photos that friends tag you in are shown without your consent even though you can un-tag yourself.  But isn’t that what Facebook is all about?

But I think that she is particularly infuriated with the fact that every webpage she visits has a Facebook presence on it. Everywhere you go there is something to do with Facebook and I think she is frustrated by that. I try to tell her that if people want, they can click the like button and share that page with their friends so that the company or information gets exposure.  The point is that people what their information to be spread.  That’s how they get business.  You don’t have to click the like button if you don’t want to.  No one is forcing you to do anything.

The main concern about Facebook is that it could be used as surveillance and data mining. They did state in their privacy policy at once point that they may use information from other sources in your profiles.  In addition, Mr. Zuckerberg has been known to meet with the FBI to assist in investigations using the company’s databases, which are far greater than the government because of the information in them.  We have all heard stories about prospective employers or recruiting colleges using Facebook to gain information about people in advance of their potential inclusion into their organization.  Furthermore, parents have to guide their children into safe computer usage and help prevent others from getting information about their children.  Children under 18 are not supposed to have Facebook pages anyway, but I am sure that many do anyway.

But the bottom line is that Facebook is really what people make of it.  If you want your information out there, it will be out there and if you don’t, then don’t post things about yourself.  Don’t allow drunken posts in the middle of the night that show your party side, or post blog entries and news feeds about your latest escapade that could be damaging to your reputation.  In this modern world where everything is potentially out there for everyone to see, you have to monitor your conduct. 

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