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Facebook privacy concerns 2: data sharing pitfalls and tweaking privacy settings

Read previous: Facebook privacy concerns: Timeline profile and user tracking

Are you really in charge of what’s being shared about you on Facebook? Is there large-scale data mining going on, you being part of it? This Zen Archer’s article provides an insight into these issues for you to get a better idea of the current social networking trends and learn more about Facebook privacy controls.

Data sharing on Facebook – is it really up to you?

You give Facebook even more private data by simply clicking 'Like' button You have these ‘Like’ buttons on every page on the web. Every time that button is called up, that is actually Facebook, that is not just an element on the page – that element comes from Facebook. So just by having that element on the page, it sends data back to Facebook. And not only is it sending data back to Facebook, but it also sends data about the one who is viewing the page with the button. And so with the help of those cookies, they know a lot about the machine and the person who is sending the ‘Like’ button.

What is important, of course, as a service it is something you opt in to. Facebook does a lot of stuff that you automatically opt in to, but regardless you are still logged in. When you log out of their service, you should have opted out from any relationship with Facebook at that time, they should not do anything with you even if you visit a website with the ‘Like’ button.

For now, simple advice is to delete cookies every time you log out of the website. Alternatively, you can use something like ‘AdBlock Plus’ software.

'Open Graph' accommodates auto-sharing features and reveals yet more data about you

'Open Graph' accommodates auto-sharing features and reveals yet more data about you

We used to have just the ‘Like’ button, now we have some more buttons with all those new ‘Open Graph’ apps with auto-publishing capabilities. In addition to ‘Liking’ something, you can now share what you have watched, read, or listened. Now you automate your sharing by saying just once: “Yes, I opt in”, and every time you read, listen to music, or watch a video, it gets immediately shared and posted on your profile – of course not just the whole article but a string that you read this article on this page or listened to this song.

Is there a need for such intrusiveness to everything that you do? Will we be offered to share what we ate, touched and heard in the future? What was wrong with just copying and pasting a link, or what was wrong with the ‘Like’ button?

It is clear that new features can facilitate much more sharing and so much more watching and buying. It just depends on how much control you get over what is being shared.

It is interesting how successful and profitable new features are to Facebook, as so many people say, for example, that the big part of ‘Spotify’ music streaming feels like noise popping up all the time. And the default setting of ‘friends only’ means all of your friends, even maybe pregnant classmates know that you listen to ‘Cannibal Corpse’, death metal band.

It makes sense if you want to be a network that is all about being public, but Facebook has never been about being public. It makes Facebook a network for celebrities or other public people.

At Facebook, they know a lot about the machine and the person who is sending the ‘Like’ button.

Is that too far when it is at the stage when almost 900 million Facebook users do not even have to click a button? Most people are not culturally ready for that, we do not quite understand why we are doing it.

And Facebook say if somebody does want to share but not always, not everything and not with everybody – he can always tweak his settings. Yes, we can, but they do not always make things easy. And that is what the next couple of paragraphs are about.

Adjusting Facebook privacy controls

They really make it difficult. While tech savvy people sometimes cannot understand these settings, how can the rest of the people do? They could have made it simple. Facebook actually has almost 900 million users, even if just 5% struggle with Facebook controls, it makes 45 million people – whole population of a country like Spain. Millions of people are possibly clicking and sharing stuff unintentionally.

Take for example my mother, she signed up to Facebook and she really tries hard with new technology, but Facebook just confuses her. Enormous amount of time I have been called to help her use Facebook because she is worried when she posts stuff or when she sends a message (who can see it, who cannot?), it is just not clear for her.

Millions of people are possibly sharing stuff on Facebook unintentionally.

For younger generation it is easier, they have grown up with the Internet and understand the way it all works, but for other people who are new to this environment, it is totally different. So it is kind of scary – the amount of control that Facebook now has over the Internet and everything people like my mother do online.

It is so unknown, they are not doing a good service for themselves by being so confusing. Somebody even said: “You are going to need a degree to use Facebook soon, or maybe insert it into high school educational program”.

There have actually been calls to teach Facebook in classroom. And there is a reason for that, it is a new way of communicating and it is not disappearing, it is not going away, and if it disappears something else would take its place. It is like the car for people a hundred years ago, it is not going to go away, we have it now, it’s changing the world in a certain way, let us learn how we can live with it.

'Ticker' section embedded in a Facebook profile

'Ticker' section embedded in a Facebook profile

Also under privacy issues, there’s the new profile with the ‘Ticker’. There is no way to turn that ‘Ticker’ off, you can just hide it. You cannot select and say: “I do not want to be on the ‘Ticker'”. And what is interesting, ‘Ticker’ is not for all, only active members who have many friends or install a long list of apps can see it. Facebook thinks it does a favor, providing a kind of premium feature for active members, but seems people who are not so engaged with Facebook are in better position as Google search request “how to remove Facebook ‘Ticker’?” is very popular.

Another privacy concern has to do with employers digging Facebook when they are thinking about hiring you, and what you have up there can have serious impact on whether you get a job or not. They look and see who you are, who you hang out with and what you find amusing. They can look at your entire life in ‘Timeline’, and they might decide you are not the kind of person they are looking for when they start diving into your more private conversations.

What you have on Facebook can have serious impact on whether you get a job or not.

And what’s worse, now we find out some employers are asking for Facebook passwords before hiring people, though it is a violation of Facebook policy which you agreed to by signing up. And most people did give their password as they needed the job. Even those horrible Facebook privacy settings and complicated controls are being taken from us when we are asked about our password. All the work done adjusting privacy settings gets pointless. Where the hell is this world going to?

And what if you decide to quit Facebook? What if you are sick and tired of its intrusiveness?

I had left Facebook more than once but got messages from friends that said: “We miss you, please come back”, or they just say: “Hey, somebody commented on your thing”, and if you go over there to comment back – boom! Facebook says: “Welcome back”, and everything that you had there is still there, even though you closed your account.

Picking the right key to Facebook privacy takes time and effort So if you do decide that Facebook, as far as privacy goes, is a little too much for you, delete everything you can, change personal data so that it is no longer relevant, and then leave Facebook, so information could not be data-mined later on, because even when you are no longer there, your information is still being stored.

It is funny how many people have these Facebook privacy concerns and yet decide to stay, saying: “That is not a big deal”. It might be, and it might get worse in the future.

Facebook privacy issues… What do you think?

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