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Remember to check privacy settings on Facebook Print E-mail

Sunday, 27 November 2011 00:00

Written by Leigh Goessl

Facebook and privacy has been anything but synonymous in 2010. The social networking giant's seemingly lackadaisical attitude towards privacy angered many of the website's members. Even some members of Congress and privacy watchdogs made inquiries to FTC and some subsequently filed complaints.   

As a result Facebook has had its share of negative press due to privacy issues.

Many believe this has occurred with good reason. After all, between the glitches which exposed vulnerabilities, data collection which resulted in over 100 million members' information being shared, Facebook sharing information with third parties, all of these events helped contribute to a general sense of upset in the social network community in regards to privacy.

While some of the issues lie within Facebook's internal structure and site policies, other privacy issues arise due to the actions of members. Unfortunately many people often do not take the time  to learn about the privacy controls Facebook offers or simply do not think about the types of content they are sharing before they post.

Due to forgetting to use good privacy practices, it is a common occurrence for many users to find themselves in hot water with their significant others, families, bosses or just in general. There are plenty of ways people can get themselves into trouble by failing to remember to use privacy settings on the network, some obvious and others, not so obvious until the situation spins out of control.

Take 14 year old Rebecca Javeleau. Unfortunately this young woman learned a privacy lesson the hard way. Javeleau is having a birthday soon and her family was planning a party to celebrate. Being Facebook is one of the most common ways people nowadays use to communicate, the teen did what many others do, she sent her birthday party invite out via the network's event tool.

Unfortunately Javeleau neglected to uncheck the box which controls who gets the invite (Facebook's  default "anyone can view and RSVP" was left checked; another example of Facebook apathy towards privacy). Instead of sending the invite strictly to her close-knit invited friends, she inadvertently sent the party information out to an open network. As a result Rebecca received 21,000 affirmative RSVP's from Facebook members across the globe.

Facebook intervened and took down the publicly displayed invite, however, the damage was done. As a result the soon to be 15 year old will not be having her party as her mother cancelled the gathering, revoked Javeleau's Internet privileges and then called the police. The law authorities plan to add extra patrols to the Javeleau household in case some of those thousands of Facebook members actually show.

This situation has made global news and brings to light an important issue. Members should always, always double check not only individual account privacy settings, but all other settings too.  For the most part when using the Facebook interface, it is not a bad assumption to presume the information will be publicly streamed unless changes have been set in privacy controls.

With so many privacy issues, either through the fault of Facebook, a hacker or the member, you'd think that Facebook would default many options to private. This way users could stipulate the details public should they choose. Unfortunately, this is typically not the network's philosophy as the company prefers to run based on the "open" network viewpoint. The problem is far too many members either do not understand how to use privacy controls or tend to mistake Facebook's small time feel as a private congregating place.

While some of privacy problems associated with Facebook are not within the individual user's control,  a number of the privacy issues associated with Facebook can be, for the most part, eliminated. What it takes is the effort to remember to check privacy settings on Facebook. These controls are not 100% guaranteed, however, they do serve a purpose and can help keep personal information private. That combined with vigilance can help provide a reasonable amount of privacy.


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