Schneier: Facebook kills privacy for profit

Schneier: Facebook kills privacy for profit

Summary: Social-networking sites such as Facebook are eroding privacy to sell content to advertisers, according to BT chief security technology officer Bruce Schneier

TOPICS: Security

Social-networking sites such as Facebook are eroding their members' privacy in the interests of their business model, according to BT's chief security technology officer Bruce Schneier.

The security expert said on Tuesday that social-networking sites deliberately encourage people to disclose personal details about themselves so the sites will have content to sell to advertisers.

"These CEOs are deliberately killing privacy — it's their market — and Facebook is the worst offender," Schneier told reporters at RSA Conference Europe in London. "In the end, Facebook will do its best by its customers, who aren't you [but advertisers]."

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Schneier added that people "shouldn't be surprised" that a service paid for by third parties is acting in the interests of those third parties.

Earlier in the day, the security expert said in a conference keynote speech that many social-networking sites only give limited options for privacy. For example, Facebook does not make it easy to delete posts, and those posts are shared with a wide variety of people, Schneier noted.

He told the press conference that organisations are collecting increasing amounts of data on people, to the detriment of privacy. While technical solutions implemented by ISPs would go some way to improving internet privacy, governments should ultimately shoulder the responsibility, he said. "I would like to see governments pass broad data-protection laws," Schneier added.

Facebook responded on Wednesday by saying that while its business model is to sell to advertisers, its focus is on its users' experience.

"Advertising is Facebook's business model, but nothing is more important to us than user experience, safety and enjoyment," it said in a statement. "In a more connected world, advertisers are social too. This gives you the chance to connect to the companies and brands you like and learn more about their products and services."

The social-networking company said that it does not share personally identifiable information with advertisers or sell personal information. Advertisers only ever see anonymised and aggregated data, it added.

In addition, Facebook members own and control their own data on the site, the company said.

"Users control and own all of their data on Facebook and this is clearly set out in our terms," said Facebook. "Users control when to add information to Facebook, when to change it and when to take it down. This is not affected by any third party."

Topic: Security

Tom Espiner

About Tom Espiner

Tom is a technology reporter for He covers the security beat, writing about everything from hacking and cybercrime to threats and mitigation. He also focuses on open source and emerging technologies, all the while trying to cut through greenwash.

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  • "These CEOs are deliberately killing privacy — it's their market — and Facebook is the worst offender,"
    ... and that from the organisation that wanted to get in bed with Phorm.
  • that's why, now it's so important to surf on the web through a VPN access. VPN protects your privacy and prevents your ISP from monitoring and controlling your online communications and browsing activity. A VPN connection is an attractive option for people concerned about their privacy, security and freedom. there, a list of VPN services:

    STOP Facebook to monitor and control our online activities!
  • "... and that from the organisation that wanted to get in bed with Phorm."

    A very understandable viewpoint. However, my only question is why someone like Bruce Schneier is working for BT. Guess he needs the money.

    Through long experience, I have found that one should take every last word he says very very seriously. He knows of which he speaks.
    Andrew Meredith
  • Quote;
    "In addition, Facebook members own and control their own data on the site, the company said."

    This is a bald-faced lie.

    I challenge ZDNet to have a few writers utilize their own, or start a Facebook account to join a few Apps and Games on Facebook. Try Zynga's Farmville, YoVille, or Castle Age, perhaps Chase Community Giving, or Visual Bookshelf, hey, even Pandora Radio, then go to this link;

    And click Edit Setting next to any of the above. You will see that Facebook has eliminated User control over what a game, app or page can see and it is now ALL driven by the ethics of the individual corporations as to how far they will intrude on the User's, their family, and their friend's, private and personal information.

    If you need something instant to get a fire under you, check out this image of one of my own Game settings - that I can no longer change, or opt-out of.

    If you choose to look into this I would be interested in any article about what the results are and anything that Facebook has to say about it. Thank you.