Facebook: A Privacy Problem?


Did you hear the news?!?!

Nick failed out of university! :0

Ashleigh called in sick for work to go away for the weekend! :0

Who is Nick and Ashleigh?!?! They are not in my friends list!

Facebook’s new privacy settings have made it possible for me to learn all this exciting personal information about complete strangers. And I bet Nick’s parents, or Ashleigh’s boss could just as easily gain access to this information as I have!

Facebook in the Early Days

Facebook was so successful from the start because of its simplicity. An individual’s user data was only visible to other users who they accepted friend requests from.  Updates of one’s profile were by default private (friends only).

The Evolution of Privacy

In December, 2009,  Mark Zuckerberg informed a live audience that the world has changed, that it’s become more public and less private.

By giving people the power to share, we’re making the world more transparent                -Mark Zuckerberg

Is it society that has become less private? Or is it Facebook that is forcing its users to become more public with their information? Facebook users could no londer hide from the public since the new default became public to everyone. Those who weren’t aware of the change, who did not modify their privacy settings to be hidden to the public had their profiles being viewed by God knows who out of the 500 million users of Facebook.

Teachers, employees, etc. were being fired from their jobs because they were unaware that their accounts suddenly became open. Parent’s of students were finding pictures of their teachers drinking alcohol, and doing “un-teacher like” things. This of course led to their unemployment as they were accused of setting bad examples for their students.

For those who were aware of the changes, it was and still is quite difficult to manage your privacy settings. In order to achieve maximum privacy, one must go through an unreasonable amount of settings and options, individually hiding each photo album out of hundreds….and yet there is information that is still open to the public.  Facebook has a privacy policy consisting of 5,830 words, more then the United States constitution! Naturally, it will  be difficult for a user to fully understand what is going on with their account and realize what is and what is not private. 

To  be quite honest, until recently, I was not aware that complete strangers could access my profile, and view my information, pictures, etc. Until recently, I could not understand why random strangers from the middle east were suddenly requesting to be my friend!

Sonia Slusarczyk

Facebook founder’s views on trusting users

Mark Zuckerberg’s attitude towards privacy does not help either. Shortly after Zuckerberg launched The Facebook in his dorm room, he was chatting with his friend:

Zuck: Yeah so if you ever need info about anyone at Harvard

Zuck: Just ask.

Zuck: I have over 4,000 emails, pictures, addresses, SNS

[Redacted Friend’s Name]: What? How’d you manage that one?

Zuck: People just submitted it.

Zuck: I don’t know why.

Zuck: They “trust me”

Zuck: Dumb f****.

Sure this conversation was meant to be harmless…just a joke. However, it does imply that the intentions of Facebook, to provide an open and public network, might have started earlier on. As Mark Zuckerberg believes today, privacy is no longer the “social norm” so it is important to push towards transparency and open up the network by making it more public.

Privacy Tips

For those of you who are still confused about how to properly
protect your privacy on Facebook, this 10 step guideline is for you.
It outlines how to:
  • use your friend list
  • remove yourself from facebook search results
  • remove yourself from google
  • avoid the infamous photo/video tag mistake
  • protect your albums
  • prevent stories from showing up in your friend’s news feed
  • protect against published application stories 
  • make your contact information private
  • avoid embarassing wall posts
  • keep your friendships private
Facebook’s standards have severly dropped. Whether or not Mark Zuckerberg’s intentions are pure, if they do not restore these standards, and do not gain the trust of their users, if their users continue to feel insecure and uncomfortable, this will eventually lead to their downfall.

About sslusarc

I am a student at University of Guelph, majoring in Biological Sciences and Minoring in Nutritional and Nutraceutical Sciences
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