Facebook and Google offer numerous privacy controls, but their policies are written with such obfuscation that they are tougher to decipher than the fine print on a credit card agreement, according to a study by research and marketing consultants Siegel+Gale. So what's a person to do to protect your privacy on the social-networking circuit? Well, use some common sense:
Think before you type. Even after you delete an account, some information can remain in Facebook's servers for up to 90 days.
Protect your basic information. Set a specific audience for your profile item, such as where you live and where you work (or don't include that information at all). Sharing that information with "friends of friends" could mean an audience of thousands of people.
Turn off Tag Suggest. Why should Facebook automatically recognize your face?
Block snoopy apps and sites. Friend might be unknowingly sharing information about you with the apps they use. Use controls to limit what the apps can see.
Set your wall to an unpublic status and consider "unsharing." You don't really need to share everything with everyone. Really!
You can always deactivate.
Big Brother (in the form of Facebook) is truly watching you now. Did you know:
Facebook collects more data than you might realize. You probably didn't know that it receives a report every time you visit a site with a Facebook "like" button, even if you do not click the button, even if you are not logged in, EVEN if you are NOT a Facebook user. It's collecting all sorts of info, including your IP address, which, in the words of Lori Andrews, a law professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology, can act like "DNA at a crime scene. There often will be enough data points connected with your IP address to clearly identify you."
Okay, so he was a bit of a pessimist.
Your personal data is shared more widely than you may imagine. Even if you have restrictions on your information to include "friends only," a friend who is using a Facebook app could allow your information to be sent to a third party...without your knowledge.
Yeah, and he's not very attractive, either.
Some people are just compulsive over-sharers. Millions of users post status updates on Facebook that say where they plan to spend a day or night --- potentially tipping off burglars that homes are ripe for the pickings. Millions of other users "liked" a page about health conditions or treatments (which details an insurer might use to deny coverage).
"Move fast and break things." Zuckerberg explains Facebook's core values
Current laws about online privacy are pretty weak in the US. You don't have a lot of rights in federal court in this matter.
They know what you look like. The "Tag Suggest" feature, which was enabled for some users, without notification, scans the photographs that you upload using facial recognition technology. It will then try to tie the face to a specific user. Oh, great, you say, that'll save me some time. Oh yeah, do you really want to be part of a gigantic biometric database?
So besides the geeks at Facebook, who's watching? Insurance companies, employers, and college admissions officers, that's who. Government investigators such as IRS agents can scan public postings to research tax cases (although they are currently prohibited from trying to "friend" a taxpayer in order to gain access to potentially incriminating data. However, investigators for the Department of Immigration and Naturalization Services are encouraged to try all means, including cyber-friending, to try to observe the day-to-day activities of suspected illegal aliens.
So what can you do if you actually value that quaint old concept known as "privacy?" Stay tuned tomorrow for tips on protecting your personal information.
(Information courtesy of Consumer Reports, June 2012 issue)
To find out more about me, click on the Not Your Average Jo tab.