Facebook is ranked as one of the 10 most trusted companies when it comes to privacy, according to the findings from a survey by the Ponemon Institute, an information security research company, and TRUSTe, a widely recognized Internet privacy trustmark company.
The social networking site - ranked at No. 10, up from No. 15 last year - is joined on by eBay, Verizon, IBM, Yahoo, Intuit and even the U.S. Postal Service on the Top 10 list. Interestingly enough, Yahoo, Facebook and Verizon debuted on the Top 20 list last year and moved up this year while others - American Express and Charles Schwab, among others - fell off the list this year. Apple, which debuted at No. 8 last year, was not on this year's Top 10 list.
No one should really be surprised by the ranking. Sure, we put a lot of information about ourselves on Facebook every day. And while many of us are surely naive and careless because they don't know any better, others allow themselves to share granular details of their lives because they've established privacy settings about who can see what.
Facebook says that's the key: giving users control over their privacy settings. In a statement, the company said:
Facebook is known as a place for sharing and we see our place on the list and rising position in the ranking is additional evidence that people are increasingly defining privacy - not just as keeping information safe - but as control over their information. That is, when users have control over what information is shared with whom, they feel that their privacy is protected and they trust the company with which they're dealing.
In the end, that's all we really want, right? I'm not opposed to using the Web for sensitive information - from banking and bill pay to sharing pics of the kids to monitoring medical records. I just want to make sure that there are proper safeguards in place to keep the data out of the wrong hands. In instances like banking, I have to put a certain amount of trust in the institution that they're taking every precaution to protect me. (I already trust them enough to let them hold my money.)
But in a setting like Facebook, there are different definitions of privacy - each member sees it differently. In those cases, it's best to do what Facebook has done - hand over the controls and let the user drive.