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Minding Your Business: Facebook Privacy Controversy

In 100 words or less… Critics are fuming over Facebook’s latest privacy policy changes that are branded as “Instant Personalization” and “Connections”.


In 100 words or less…

Critics are fuming over Facebook’s latest privacy policy changes that are branded as “Instant Personalization” and “Connections”. The features actually limit a users’ ability to control Facebook’s distribution of their profile information to networks beyond Facebook. Critics charge the constantly changing privacy policies are intentionally confusing – that the sheer hassle of opting out of information sharing keeps users blissfully ignorant and vulnerable. Facebook unapologetically claims their Privacy Policies are spelled out clearly – http://www.facebook.com/policy.php, pointing out that users can remove any information they don’t want Facebook to share web-wide. It’s a classic case of competing interests.

While many people consider social networking a playful past-time, it’s really the infrastructure of a powerful type of on-line marketing, and that’s where the competing interests come in, along with a need for balance. Networks of like-minded people provide valuable target audiences for products and services. It’s smart marketing and it’s  unreasonable to expect Facebook and other marketers to ignore the business potential, but there’s a consumer call for greater transparency of the way data is shared.

Facebook takes the heat on privacy issues in part because with more than 400 million active users worldwide, it’s the 300 pound gorilla of social networking.  What happens on Facebook matters to a majority of on-line Americans. Facebook and other social media sites share your personal information with various third parties who have a vested interest in who you’re socializing with, what you’re buying, what you’re reading and basically where you’re hanging out on the web. There’s nothing new about that. That’s why the ads that pop up on a fifteen year old’s Facebook page are nothing like those you’ll see on the page of a 50 year old. Your profile information is a gold mine for marketers who craft messages just for you and the people in your networks.

Facebook is not “free”. You pay for your place on Facebook with personal information – as much or as little as you choose to provide. As Facebook and other social media networks continue to extend their reach, you need to be aware of who’s sharing what with whom. Ready to dig deeper?

Inside Network Facebook News

Privacy Watchdog Group: ReclaimPrivacy.org

7 Things to stop doing now on Facebook: Consumer Reports