May 3, 2012
Facebook Makes Privacy Difficult
In a story which will surprise no one who´s been using Facebook for any length of time, Consumer Reports is saying the social media giant isn´t making their privacy policies clear enough for their 150 million users. As more people hand over more information to Facebook, Consumer Reports is saying users should be careful about what they are sharing.
Of the 150 million Facebookers, 13 million haven´t set any kind of online privacy controls. According to Consumer Reports, this is a sign that many users don´t understand the privacy policies or cannot locate them on Facebook, a complaint which has been made numerous times before. In their June issue of Consumer Reports magazine, they call out Facebook, saying they have “labyrinthian policies and controls.”
Jeff Fox, technology editor for Consumer Reports, told Bloomberg much of the problem could be the classic communication gap between the tech-savvy and tech-challenged. “A lot of things about the service are not very transparent to non-technical people,” said Fox.
“Facebook is the custodian of all this information – they have a social responsibility to people who use this service.”
Even those users who are aware of Facebook´s privacy settings and put them to use may not fully understand what information Facebook is collecting and selling to their advertisers. For instance, Facebook tracks visits to websites which feature their iconic “like” symbol, according to Consumer Reports.
As Facebook grows outside its desktop birthplace into the wide open world of mobile devices, users are beginning to share more and more intimate information about themselves. Consumer Reports estimates 39 million American users have told Facebook who their family members are and 4.8 million have told the site where they plan on being that day.
Without appropriate privacy safeguards, this kind of information can be seen by anyone, and could pose some very dangerous threats to users. Consumer Reports also mentions 4.7 people have clicked a thumbs-up “like” button on a page about a health condition, information the Reports say could be used against them by insurers.
Even those who take great care to share their information with only their friends could find themselves in trouble, as some third-party apps can access data through one of their friends´ logins.
One way some users are keeping themselves safe is to come up with fake names, ages, and occupations for their profiles. When Consumer Reports polled Facebook users, they found 25% of those polled created false aliases in order to protect their privacy and information. So, how does one keep their privacy secure when on Facebook?
According to the report, users should:
- Think before you type. Even if you delete your Facebook account, certain information can stick around for as long as 90 days. `
- Review your privacy settings on a regular basis and see how your own page looks to other people.
- Protect basic information, such as your town or employer. And remember that sharing certain details with "friends of friends" could expose you to a lot of people.
- Your username and photo are public, so users concerned about privacy may want to leave out a picture of themselves.
- Set your controls to limit the information that Facebook apps can see about you.