Your Privacy is Under Attack – Facebook

Facebook, the Borg-Collective of the Internet, is making headlines about its Privacy Policies again. With over a billion Facebook “citizens”, larger than any country except China and India, any changes to Facebook’s policies are a big deal.

How worried should you be?

Facebook wants to change three major things, how it shares information with affiliates, who can contact you via Facebook Messages,  and to eliminate the voting process on changes to its policies.

After Facebook acquired Instagram (sorry Instagram users), it now wants to combine user information from both services into one, similar to what Google did early 2012. As Facebook grows it will acquire more companies, some of which may continue to operate as affiliates, and Facebook wants to pave the way to share user information between those entities. Without defining “affiliate” clearly (intentionally),  it gives Facebook the ability to share with just about anyone.

Facebook is making updates to its Messages service, proposing to eliminate your control over who can send you Facebook Messages opening up your inbox to spam, leaving it up to you to create filters to hold unwanted messages at bay.

Facebook wants to remove the 4-year old voting process for policy changes citing their desire to have quality input over quantity. Mind you, the current process is only binding if 30% of its users take part, which has never happened, hence eliminating this process makes no practical difference.

What’s going on then?

Allow me to dispense with the bull. What started out as a campus social network grew into the largest online collection of people on the planet. Even if you are not on Facebook, someone you know is. The degree to which Facebook has penetrated your family, friends, or acquaintances circles may vary, depending on their location and age, but chances are that there is a picture of you or a mention of you on Facebook even if you didn’t put it there.

Facebook makes Mark Zuckerberg’s brainchild “frictionless sharing” a reality, encouraging users to share even the most intimate details without understanding the implications. You probably never read the Terms and Conditions and the Privacy statement you agreed to, and you probably have a sense of how you intend to share information; however, neither the privacy policy nor your sense of privacy are likely to match reality.

Reality is Facebook is a publicly traded company and obligated to make a profit. Profits come from advertisers who use the information Facebook collects to target their advertisements to those users who are most likely to make purchases. Forget social network and say Hello to corporate profits.

What is all the fuss about?

Facebook is the antithesis to privacy. Any information you share, may not remain limited to the people you originally shared it with. This may, or may not, be Facebook’s fault as sharing between users is out of Facebook’s control. Facebook’s privacy policies clearly state that they will cooperate with law enforcement, so anything you say can AND WILL be used against you.

If you value your privacy, your only viable option is to not join Facebook, or if you have already done so to delete your profile. According to their Privacy Policy it will take up to 90 days for your information to be removed from their servers, which is, unfortunately, impossible to verify.

If you, like many people, can’t resist the temptation of being “Liked” on Facebook (or Facebook’s constant friend spam), your only other option to protect your privacy is to use false information, a fake name, your birthday a few days off, etc… Facebook states that it wants real information (dream on Mark!), but that is difficult to enforce. However, using a fake identity may protect your privacy, but also makes it very difficult to make “real” friends, defeating Facebook’s sole purpose.

In summary, you only have two options, protect your privacy and not join Facebook, or forget about your privacy, become Facebook’s product and join the fun. The choice, mon ami, is yours!

Image Credit: Marcin Wichary

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