Facebook’s New Features has Everybody Asking About
Privacy issues seem to be on the forefront of every headline. The hottest of those headlines are about Facebook’s recent launch of a couple features called Social Plugins and Instant Personalization.
Social plugins are those “Like” buttons that site owners are placing on their sites. The idea is to click the button or become of a fan of the site to let your Facebook friends know your interest as well as some free advertisement for the site via Facebook. This isn’t exactly scary, because it’s voluntary and you’re only going to push that button if you want your friends to know about it – not so you could have a random list of sites you like on your Facebook account, just in case you forget.
Instant Personalization is much more intrusive. This new feature automatically allows your public Facebook data to be used with 3 of Facebook’s selected Partners, Pandora, Yelp, and Docs.com. Yup, everyone on Facebook was opted into this system with no notice.
This information is then used by these companies to help them target you for advertising and to create a stronger profile of your online presence. To stop this, login to Facebook and go to Accounts, then Privacy Settings and then Programs and Applications and opt out there. Be sure to click the What your friends can share about you and unclick all of the boxes there as well. This is important because when you opt out of this feature there is a very important message that shows up you should read…
This sudden release of this program with everyone opted in without notice is obviously the reason for some anger around the Internet.
Facebook has also removed the 24-hour rule with regards to how long they can keep your personal information. Facebook now holds your information indefinitely.
Another controversial Facebook privacy hole, (found by a Google developer) was that all the public events you’ve attended or are planning to attend, is publicly available for viewing. No matter how the Facebook privacy settings are altered, this list could be accessed by anyone. This privacy hole is probably the one most publicized and probably most blown out of proportion. Though it may be very revealing, keep in mind that these events are public knowledge already, and its unclear how they could be any more harmful than the standard use of Facebook. When you get invited to an event and say you’re attending, this is announced to everyone you know on Facebook already. The only way to avoid this is to simply say you’re not attending…or get off Facebook.
Deactivating your Facebook account altogether is really the only way to avoid privacy issues and it seems like it may be the most common among Google’s software engineers. Matt Cutts went so far as to announce on Twitter recently that he has deactivated his account. Though it’s unclear if he was the catalyst, using Buzz, it was discovered that many of Google’s software engineers are doing likewise and deactivating their accounts. This move (of course) is starting to get some attention, and could be considered a pretty aggressive PR campaign by Google against Facebook.
This stirs up some interesting questions about Google’s employees using their status to attempt to influence average users to follow them. Not to mention the question of this being a hypocritical act after Google went ahead and opted in its users into Buzz, and behavioral targeting without consent, as well has personalizing search by default.
Let’s look past the privacy issue and ask an important question. Is Facebook making this change to enhance your experience? Why stir up issues unless you stand to make a lot of money? Yelp, Pandora and Docs.com stand to make a lot money off of becoming Facebook partners, and no doubt they paid handsomely to gain this opportunity.
The important thing to know, and to share with your family, is that if you’re using sites like Facebook then you’re making your life public and your information available to the highest bidder. Think of Facebook, Twitter and the Internet in general like a billboard in your home town. If you wouldn’t put it up there for everyone to see then keep it off the Internet.