Facebook will never get privacy right

Facebook will never get privacy right

Summary: No matter how hard Facebook tries, privacy can never be guaranteed. Why? Possibly because the end users are humans, and humans can be a bit silly.


And I shall tell you for why. Individual responsibility is not being taken. If there are channels available for you to input something personal onto the web, even though it may seemingly only be available to certain people, it should be a mixed responsibility between the user and the service providing.

If someone writes a scathing status which is accidentally published to the entire world, they blame Facebook. If a picture is tagged of someone acting like an idiot, Facebook gets blamed. If a profile gets horribly fraped, then Facebook takes the rap.

The BBC reported the privacy change:

"Facebook is nudging the settings toward the 'disclose everything' position," said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the US Electronic Privacy Information Center (Epic). "That's not fair from the privacy perspective."

Even I made the mistake earlier on today confusing "everyone" thinking it was everyone within my social network, and not literally anyone who uses the web. Such conflicting factors taken into account such as the ability to not search for my name confused me also; does this mean they can see my status update but not my name and/or profile? I haven't got a clue.

The world is abuzz with criticism, no more so than at the Electronic Frontier Foundation which seems to be the most cited of all sources. To be fair, I don't see why the privacy settings should regard to anybody outside of your network.

"Friends" should see everything of yours, but lesser-friends should be limited somewhat further. Maybe Facebook should work on social network internal privacy, instead of mixing the internal/external social network circles, like a Venn diagram of utter confusion.

Personally I found one of the greater features - the ability to have a geographical network (perhaps no longer even academic networks which universities and college has) - to tighten the community around these places. With my very own London being the top network on the site, many still wish there could have been a more close-to-home Kent network.

My point is, Facebook will never get it right because people will carry on blaming the site for their own failings. Yes, there is a large part of responsibility on their part, but if you don't want something going out to the wider world, don't write it on the Internet.

What happened to just keeping in touch? Surely that was what a face book was for in the first place. The simpler something is, the less that can go wrong.

Topics: Collaboration, Legal, Networking, Social Enterprise

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  • RE: Facebook will never get privacy right

    You're missing a major point when it comes to privacy. Your personal concern about your facebook information may boil down to silly pictures or status updates, but publication of friends lists can have life-threatening or career ending consequences for many people around the globe. This is about far more than taking personal responsibility, this is about Facebook's pursuit of new revenue streams through better targeting and by ignoring privacy.

    A number of my friends in Iran are active student protesters of the government. They use Facebook extensively to organize protests and meetings, but they had no choice but to delete their facebook accounts today. They are terrified that their once private lists of friends are now available to "everyone" that wants to know. When that "everyone" happens to include the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and members of the Basij militia, willing to kidnap, arrest, or murder to stifle dissent, the consequences seem just a bit more serious than those faced from silly pictures and status updates. I realize this may not be an issue for the vast majority of American facebook users, but it's just plain irresponsible to do this without first asking consent. It's even more egregious because Facebook threw out the original preference (the one that requested facebook keep the list of friends private) and replaced it with a mandate, publicizing what was once private information- with no explicit consent. If given the choice to remain a facebook user with those settings, or quit, my friends would have quit rather than risk that information being seen by the wrong people. Instead, Facebook published it anyways. It's a betrayal of trust for the sake of better targeted advertising.

    This isn't just about Iran though, if you need examples closer to home, consider the data mining outfits that make a fortune on background investigations, security clearances, and lawsuits. This is exactly the type of data they collect and archive. Imagine what happens in court when a Defense attorney discovers that the judge on his case is facebook friends with the Prosecutor (a guy he probably sees all day every day)? Careers are at stake, trials can be thrown out. How many similar situations can you think of? There was a study at MIT earlier this year that correctly predicted the sexuality of many closeted gays based upon their Facebook friend lists... how about if one of them is a soldier in the Army? Should they worry if they'll still be a soldier tomorrow?
    • Soryy, but no

      Please show me where Facebook promises secure
      communications. Oh that's right, it doesn't.
      Please show me where Facebook promises it will
      never hand any data over to any government. Oh
      that's right, it doesn't.
      Using the largest, most visible, most
      frequently criticized (over privacy issues)
      social network to promote and participate in
      potentially life threatening activities seems
      outright stupid, to me.
      • Just because you "can" doesn't mean you "should"

        A valid point... fine print and all, but I made absolutely no mention about Facebook violating the terms of their fine print. I simply implied that it was irresponsible. From the safety of your cubicle, try to empathize with this simple fact and how it relates to the issue at hand: who you associate with can get you arrested and sometimes killed in Iran.

        This has nothing to do with covert communication of confidential information, Facebook and twitter have been pivotal for public announcements to student activists. It's so valuable, because it allows for announcements to be made and protests to be coordinated without the Government or members of the militia discovering who subscribes to updates; by all means, it was the very shielding of that friend list that made it such important tool for getting the word out quickly.

        Here's how it works: a dummy account is created on twitter or facebook, everyone "friends" or subscribes to the updates of that dummy account, and you can get all the announcements without having to worry about the militia finding out that they are on that list and arresting them or their family -Something that simply couldn't be achieved with SMS and email. If the militia is shooting, in the blink of an eye an update arrives through twitter and facebook and you know the areas of Tehran to avoid.

        The dummy account's friend list is a list of who subscribes to updates. For the list to be made public is terrifying, indeed, and I really hope you can recognize just what that means to the people affected. You're welcome to cite all the fine print you want from the safety of the US, but the fact is, Facebook threw out explicitly chosen privacy settings that their members had every expectation would be honored. I stated quite clearly, if facebook had given the opportunity to either quit or remain members with this mandated policy before making the data public, the choice would have been to quit. There was no such choice, they enacted it anyways, but it doesn't matter much now anyways, the damage is done: new dummy accounts are created weekly by a number of people doing the exact same thing. Some are still active and providing updates two weeks later, some aren't. This means that subscribers may or may not delete the dummy accounts from their friend lists. If just one of those dummy accounts wasn't deactivated yesterday and the wrong people were subscribed (the very reason for new dummy accounts), then the list is out there and it's a verifiable road map to silencing what are the strongest voices of dissent against this regime. I leave it to you to imagine what the word "silencing" entails in Tehran. Seeing as how this is the biggest week of the year for student protests, priorities have been elsewhere. No one ever expected that they would have to go back clean up what didn't need cleaning until Facebook made these changes. This data was private, and of no concern before, and facebook users had every expectation that a company wouldn't make public, information explicitly designated as private -without asking permission. So what if they never made any guarantees? It's irrelevant. I'm sure Facebook's legal team is confident that they didn't violate any terms of service, but I never argued as such. I argued that it was simply irresponsible, fine print and all.
      • You're very close

        Here, let me make a tiny change to your statement (emphasized)

        Please show me where Facebook promises secure
        communications. Oh that's right, it doesn't.
        Please show me where Facebook promises it will
        never hand any data over to any government. Oh
        that's right, it doesn't.
        Using the largest, most visible, most
        frequently criticized (over privacy issues)
        social network to promote [b][i]ANY[/i][/b] activities seems
        outright stupid, to me.

        Why people feel the need to post their doings on a public
        web site (yes, the company and the site is public, even if
        you've made some of your own settings private), is beyond
        me. As has been shown repeatedly, Facebook, and any other
        "social media" site can change their policies any time they
        feel like. What makes anyone think that 10 years from now
        Facebook won't decide that anything over 10 years old will
        be made public, period. You will have zero influence in
        that decision. And yet, you may very well be adversely affected.

        As someone else said: "laws/rules change, data lives forever".
    • RE: Facebook privacy

      I noticed that you made this comment: [i]Imagine what happens in court when a Defense attorney discovers that the judge on his case is facebook friends with the Prosecutor (a guy he probably sees all day every day)? Careers are at stake, trials can be thrown out. How many similar situations can you think of?[/i]

      This is the exact sort of "apparent conflict of interest" that cause the Florida's Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee to issue rules about it. (source http://www.miamiherald.com/news/florida/AP/story/1377349.html)
  • Facebook = Private data disaster

    Fools put their data online!
  • If you wouldn't want your Mama to see it...

    Why would anyone think anything they post anywhere on the internet is private? I use Facebook, I post links to articles and music videos that I like to share with my friends. I don't talk about politics, I don't post pictures other than a nice head shot of me smiling which I don't find at all to be a threat to me. My picture has been published in newspaper and there has never been any repurcussions.

    People who post semi-nude pictures, promote political causes etc are doing so in what is now the 21st century version of town square and it is totally open to anyone. If you would not your Mama to see it, or your Boss, then don't post it.
  • Isn't Facebook where you post things you want to be embarassed by later?

    Post it on Facebook now, loose your job for it later.

    You'd be better off just Twittering it, don't you think? I don't see why Twitter can't just replace Facebook altogether.

    Just Tweet it, I always say.
    • Ha ha! Nice one.

      Couldn't have put it better myself.

      (That's "lose your job", btw, not "loose".)
  • RE: Facebook will never get privacy right

    Couldn't agree with you more! Ultimately, privacy is the responsibility of the person posting the information. To blame Facebook is like blaming your car for getting you lost when you don't follow directions :)

    The most important privacy filter you should use is the one connected to your shoulders...

    Russ Alman
    Alternative Marketing Connections
  • Fad Explanation

    There is a long running FAD of blaming the user/consumer for the faults of the industry. The oil companies started this years ago when they claimed disastrous decisions at the executive level, such as pandering to dictators in Africa and Asia, is the unavoidable result of pressure from consumers "at the pump".

    Now Zack is doing the same thing with Facebook.

    It is unfair to put all the blame on Facebook users, even though it is, as you rightly point out, highly irresponsible to leave your notebook unattended except when the screensaver is locked.

    The real lion's share of the responsbility for the deplorable security situation must lie with Facebook. It if Facebook's decision, for example, to allow such dangerous technologies as Javascript with little or no checking for cross-scripting attacks.

    Over the few years of their existence, they have shown precious little concern for the security of their users -- even less concern than people who leave their laptops unattended.
  • If something is supposed to be "secret"


    It's a simple concept.
  • You have a good point there

    I know I certainly think about what I write on my Facebook page--I don't put anything there I wouldn't want some random stranger to be able to see.
  • Facebook will never get privacy right

    I agree with your point of view. the big proplem!
  • good idea about facebook

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