Is Facebook the Antichrist of privacy?

Summary:Facebook is in the news this week for all the wrong reasons. Another change to its privacy settings and a new 5800-word privacy policy has triggered concerns by US authorities and European privacy organisations. And in Sydney the death of 18-year-old Nona Belomesoff last week has been dubbed another "Facebook murder".

Facebook is in the news this week for all the wrong reasons. Another change to its privacy settings and a new 5800-word privacy policy has triggered concerns by US authorities and European privacy organisations. And in Sydney the death of 18-year-old Nona Belomesoff last week has been dubbed another "Facebook murder".

Has Facebook gone too far? Has it become, as Microsoft social researcher Danah Boyd argues, a utility that needs to be regulated?

Matt McKeon has shown in a handy infographic how Facebook's default privacy settings have steadily changed since the social networking site first went online in 2004 — always in favour of greater disclosure of your personal information. Obviously it best suits the interests of Facebook and its advertisers rather than yours. Leaked online chats by founder Mark Zuckerberg reveal that back when he was 19 years old and Facebook was known as The Facebook, he already saw personal information as a commodity to be traded and his users as people to mock.

In Patch Monday this week, Stilgherrian looks at Facebook privacy from two angles.

First, security and the risk to you and your employer. Paul Ducklin is Sophos' head of technology for Asia Pacific. His research shows that half the time people will befriend anyone who asks — exposing all their personal details to strangers. Criminals wanting to steal your identity or probe your business have it easy.

Second, the policy implications. David Vaile, who heads up the Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre at the University of New South Wales thinks Facebook's privacy model is "dangerous". He foresees a time when personal information is considered as valuable and vulnerable as financial information — and any IT systems that hold that information will need network security as strong as the banks.

Plus we have Stilgherrian's usual idiosyncratic look at the week's IT news headlines.

To leave an audio comment for Patch Monday, Skype to stilgherrian, or phone Sydney 02 8011 3733. And if you have any suggestions for women in IT, please add them in the comments.

Running time: 32 minutes, 13 seconds.

Topics: Security, Privacy, Social Enterprise

About

Stilgherrian is a freelance journalist, commentator and podcaster interested in big-picture internet issues, especially security, cybercrime and hoovering up bulldust. He studied computing science and linguistics before a wide-ranging media career and a stint at running an IT business. He can write iptables firewall rules, set a rabbit tr... Full Bio

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