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A Closer Look at Facebook's Privacy Issues

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A Closer Look at Facebook's Privacy Issues
A Closer Look at Facebook's Privacy Issues
Infographic courtesy TopWebDesignSchools.org

In late December, an infographic regarding the privacy issues of Facebook was released to the public. This graphic contains a plethora of information about the recent developments of Facebook’s products, including the introduction of the Timeline, and the company’s purchase of the picture-sharing site Instagram.

The infographic was released in context to a recent incident involving Randi Zuckerberg, the sister of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, in which her private Christmas photo was across the Internet. Although she posted it only to her private Facebook page for friends to see, the photo eventually found its way on to Twitter. Cally Schweitzer, who was the first to tweet the picture to her followers (over 40,000), stated that the picture popped in her News Feed and seemed public. Schweitzer later apologized to Zuckerberg, who accepted the apology but also tweeted that one should always ask permission before posting a friend’s photo publicly. Unfortunately for Zuckerberg and others, people do not always have the courtesy to ask permission before reposting something on Facebook or retweeting something on Twitter.

If you feel as though the privacy settings for social media websites are more confusing than an algebra test, don’t worry because you are not alone. When discussing this story on The Today Show, the show’s anchors admitted to not knowing anything about social media or privacy settings.

One thing Zuckerberg may want to do, and others as well, is to update the privacy settings of all social media sites which she subscribes to. As stated on the graphic, 17% of Facebook users have no privacy settings at all, while 13 million users in America have never even opened the privacy tab. In order to cater your Facebook profile to your own preferences, take a look at the privacy tab and make any changes you see fit.

In the tab, you can make yourself unsearchable, control the availability of photos, limit your profile, make yourself open to only your friends, and a wide number of other options. The tab can be found at the top right corner of your page, directly next to the Home tab. After clicking on the privacy tab, you can quickly adjust your settings using the dropdown menus, or click “See More Settings” for advanced settings.

The mission of Facebook is to “make the world more open and connected.” But that is only if you want to be open to the entire world. If not, adjust your privacy settings and make yourself as open as you are comfortable with. The easiest way to avoid any controversial or damaging materials from becoming a problem is simply to not post it.

The issue of user’s permission was discussed greatly following Facebook’s purchase of Instagram, as the company announced that it would be taking user’s pictures without their permission in order to sell the photos to advertisers to perform consumer research. Some users feared that their pictures would be used in advertisements, which led to wide scale complaints from Instagram subscribers. Following the uproar, Instagram announced that in no way would they be taking photos from users, and that the privacy settings would revert back to the original settings. The all-important line from the Terms of Service reads: "Instagram has no intention of selling your photos, and we never did. We don’t own your photos – you do."

This is not the first time Facebook has dealt with consumer’s concerns over giving information to retailers. In the example given in the graph, Nike Begus’ liked a page as a joke only to find his picture being used in a recommendation for the product. (This is not a real case, just one made up by the graph’s illustrator as an example.) While Facebook tries to cater to every user with distinct advertisements that will interest the individual, the site has faltered recently, as share prices of its stock have plummeted since trading began last summer.

Selling information to retailers is supposed to help the user, as someone who recently purchased a New York Giants hat may see ads for a sale on Giants gear on the side of the Facebook page. For others, this practice seems like an invasion of privacy. This has been and will continue to be an issue for discussion and debate, as talks regarding a Facebook mobile ad network have circulated over the past months. Facebook’s refusal to adapt to an industry standard practice regarding privacy in advertisements may be a roadblock for the company. This concern led to an all-time low in user satisfaction, which could prompt Facebook to reconsider their advertising strategies.

Another new development, which has caused some concern for privacy, is Facebook’s new timeline profile. As part of the sites ever changing platform, the company once again revamped the profile page, this time with the creation of a large banner atop the page, but more importantly, the ability to search back in time much quicker. This could put people in an awkward position, as one can find your old photos by simply scrolling down, rather than sitting and clicking for hours, as was the case with the old profile pages.

While Timeline might make it easier to look back at your college days, the information can still be kept private once privacy settings have been updated. Also, the feature does not create any new information, rather it simply makes old posts easier to find, which could be done on prior versions as well. If there is anything on your page you do not want to have seen, either delete it or alter the privacy options of your page using the instructions given above.

Additional reporting provided by Chester Baker.

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