Tuesday, April 20, 2010

In Your Face

Everyone and their dog has Facebook.  Your mom has Facebook.

A year ago that might’ve stayed as an idiomatic saying, at one point my mom had one, but as of right now my grandmother, my aunt, my uncle, my brother and cousins are all on Facebook; my neighbors probably have Facebook and the odds are pretty good that their dog has one too.
There’s a million and a half different reasons that I’m in love with Facebook –it’s nifty for reconnecting to old friends, great for keeping in touch with recently made ones and convenient for keeping your social life up to date. As you know, I use it for all of these reasons and more. With social media making privacy near impossible, it’s imperative that social networking sites improve the quality of their privacy settings. Unfortunately, when it comes to keeping parts of your life under separate locks and keys, Facebook is notorious for dropping the ball.

In 2007, Facebook launched a system called Beacon which makes it possible for websites not associated with Facebook to send over information about users, such as purchases made and games played. After some initial backlash, action notices were created which gave the user a choice to share, or not share, their personal information with the world. This past December, a new set of “privacy” settings were introduced which made things, well, not so private: no matter your previous settings, almost all of your information was made public until you went through with a fine tooth comb and redefined your settings. For why, you might ask? Well, for profit.  Did you know that the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, is one of the youngest billionaires?  As of 2009, the soon-to-be 26 year old had a personal wealth of a mere $4 billion.

 In the next few weeks, Facebook will be testing our patience with its privacy settings once again. According to a blog post from Barry Schnitt, a director on the Communications and Public Policy team, Facebook is going to share some of your information with “some pre-approved partner websites” so they can “offer a personalized experience.”

With how simple it is to sign up and maintain an account, one would think it would be easy and breezy to establish concrete user defined privacy settings. But, in the wake of site wide changes and pre-approved partner sites, Facebook has confused it’s members and backed their privacy into a corner. It’s one thing to have to change your settings time and time again, but quite another to share information without permission.

What do you think of Facebook’s ever changing privacy settings?

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