My thoughts on Facebook privacy

Facebook has become a day-to-day tool for many to share their thoughts and their memories. Facebook currently boasts over 500 million users; in fact, 1 in 5 Canadians have a Facebook account which is quite significant considering that there are approximately 34 million people in Canada. That's basically 6.8 million Canadians are on Facebook or about 1.4% of the total Facebook population. With so many people on Facebook, you need to control who can and cannot access some of the data that you declare a secret from public view.

Facebook has come under fire these past few years between privacy and business. Let's face it, Facebook is in the business of selling personal data. They are a data mining company and as a Facebook user myself, we are willing to allow companies like Facebook to sell our data to third parties. However, that data is up to how you want to share it. People have been complaining about their confusing privacy policy which I do agree was a bit confusing. I did print a copy of their privacy policy and not everything was clear and concise so I also left my feedback on the Facebook Site Governance group page a few months ago on what I found was confusing. However, Facebook has since cleaned that up which is extremely satisfying to know that Facebook has been listening to their users. Without users, Facebook might as well be non-existent.

The privacy settings has also have become under fire. Hence prompting members of the Facebook community to start an event called Quit Facebook Day on May 31, 2010. The group argues that Facebook's privacy policies and settings are confusing for the average user. I've been reviewing the privacy settings on Facebook for a long while and let me tell you this, there are way more confusing settings on Windows than there will ever be on Facebook. I mean, how hard is it to set between three settings within each application or function on Facebook. There are three main settings: Everyone, Friends of Friends and Friends Only. How hard is that? Like really, people are quitting Facebook because they can't figure out the difference between these 3 options? I just find that absurd and ridiculous.

In response to this, Facebook came out yesterday to try to quell the uproar caused by Quit Facebook Day. Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook has pledged that they will slowly introduce an even easier to use privacy settings in his video as shown below.

I believe that this is indeed a great step forward. However, there's always one thing that it won't be able to prevent, and that's how much you yourself are willing to share. One must remember that the Internet is a public place, just like any public spaces you go to. Privacy starts with you and Facebook is only there to help you with your privacy. Just remember that only share what you want to share. It's up to you to choose what you want to share, if you find it as something really personal, then don't bother sharing it at all. On another note, don't get Facebook if you don't intend to share anything at all. Facebook is all about letting people share ideas, photos and what's happening around you to friends and/or family. Even more, it allows you to easily share things to random people on the web if you really wanted to.

Facebook is only providing you the tools to control the information flow, but they can't completely control it for you. You must invest the time to tweak the settings if you're really worried about your privacy or don't share at all. The people who generally complain about privacy are the same people who are just lazy at changing privacy settings. Spend 15 minutes out of your day and you can learn how to tightly control your account. It's really not that hard. If you really want to learn, watch the video below and it'll teach you how to control your information on Facebook.

So, if you're really concerned about your privacy here's some steps you can take to make sure that nothing leaks:

  1. Spend time to learn how to use Facebook's Privacy controls
  2. Do NOT share anything that you deem to be personal
  3. Set the default settings to be Friends Only and if you want to share certain things to others, you should set that up later
  4. Do NOT randomly add applications. Be smart, only install applications you trust and when you like them
  5. Facebook is like your computer's operating system, there can be trojans or hidden data mining operations in third party applications. Be vigilant.

Quitting Facebook won't change a single thing. Instead, participate in Facebook's Site Governance page and send feedback in. This is a better way to tell Facebook what you feel instead of just quitting as it won't do a damn thing. In addition, historically these boycott groups don't do a thing. The gaming industry definitely knows this as there have been high profile boycott groups like boycotting the PC version of Modern Warfare 2 and the outright boycott of Left 4 Dead 2 due to having a sequel right after the first game. We might not even know if the 200,000 Facebook users pledged to quit will actually quit. I only expect up to 5% of the 200,000 to actually quit and probably only 1% of them would permanently quit.

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