Social Media Privacy Is Your Responsibility

Facebook made the mainstream nightly news again the past week because of some new features and applications which, once again, take away a bit more of your already small privacy online.

Facebook recently held their F8 Developer Conference and if they are not already the social center of the web, they certainly want to be. Their new Open Graph API is part of that. It gives the ability to integrate websites and web apps within your existing social network.  Some big partners (Yelp, Pandora, Microsoft) are already on board.

User privacy continues to be an issue with Facebook whenever they launch something new. It's not unique. Google recently got a lot of flak when they launched Buzz and it grabbed all your contacts from Gmail and added them to Buzz. The privacy backlash often comes fro m the dame issue: companies grabbing or extending the information you have already given them and using it in a new way without asking.

The classic faux pas is to add a feature and have the default setting be that it's "on" or "public" when the logical choice for most users would be to have it set to "private" or "off" until you decided about it. It's like when a company gets you to put in your email and then checks the "send me a newsletter" box for you. It's how when you run a Java update it automatically selects "add the Yahoo toolbar" rather than asking you to select yes or no yourself.

In fall 2007, Facebook tried an advertising experiment that led to a class-action lawsuit. When they made big changes with your privacy settings last December there was a lot of immediate criticism online.

People started posting - on blogs and in Facebook itself - about the recent privacy settings changes. Founder Mark Zuckerberg’s “public is the new social norm” didn't go over well as an explanation.

How many Facebook users even know that there is a Facebook Security information page?

social graph via GoogleWhat is bothering people this time? Previously, apps that accessed your Facebook data (all those games, for example) could only store that data for 24 hours, but now the data storage restriction is gone. Some people say that it's not a big deal that they can store (not necessarily use) it without restrictions. (Apparently, many developers were already getting around the 24 hours limit anyway.)

User can not only log in or sign up for a service, but can see how many of their friends have signed up. The "Likes" feature is now universal, and those activity feeds that appear on websites will be customized for you (your view will be different than mine). So, my content is potentially viewable to more people than before.

How much privacy am I giving up when I click “Like” on a link from a friend and it shows up on a view that my "friends" see? What about if I "like" an article that's quite political in nature - does that change you concern about it going public?

Remember that with these new applications from outside the main Facebook platform, "public" means beyond Facebook and out into the "Facebook ecosystem.”

Pandora, the Internet radio service, lets you separate or opt out of linking their Pandora music selections  to their Facebook account. Hopefully, others will also work that way, but inevitably a good number will not. Why? Because it works to their business advantage to get big numbers of us sharing our content. You should assume that if it's public, it's available to everyone in your "social graph."

The privacy is of more concern if you're a parent of kids or a teacher trying to protect young students - or protect their social graph from their students. Another rarely mentioned Facebook site is their Safety Center.

Like so many things, being informed is the key to using social media wisely. The site has Safety for Parents, Safety for Educators, Safety for Teens and Safety for Law Enforcers.

No one will be (or should be) as concerned about your privacy as you.


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