Tuesday, 28 August 2012

"Non-Privacy" on Facebook

I have been active on Facebook for over a year. The reason I joined was to understand this new social media than be actively participating. However, I turned into a prolific user of Facebook, once I started posting all my “course” pages on it and urged my students to participate actively in the discussions regarding various issues related to the course.

Lately, there has been a lot of concerns regarding the privacy issues faced by the users of Facebook. I did a little research to find out more about the problem and indeed, these concerns are valid. It appears to me that though the user has “control” over the privacy settings, by default, sharing is “allowed”. You have to go to the settings panel and configure your privacy settings. I have a serious doubt as to how many users really understand all these settings. You can try this for yourself – just click on any “friend request” user, who appears on the right hand side of your home page - you can browse all the information about that person, though he/she is not in your “friends” list. How is this possible? It is because this user has not changed his/her default privacy settings. So, be warned – somebody maybe “stalking” you somewhere all the time!

The second most important thing that I noticed is that there are many unknown applications being shared on Facebook that request your permission to open the application. For example, the news item by NDTV, Glassdoor, Branchout, are some of the applications, when clicked, request for your permission. I have no idea what these applications are. The message says “XYZ invited you to try BranchOut”. Is XYZ aware that he has sent this application to his friends? Suppose, if I click “grant permission” by mistake, I am not even aware of the personal data I am sharing. How do we know that it is not spam? Though there is an option “Block apps” in the privacy settings, how do we know what applications to block? If we have already clicked on the application, it already has your information – so, there is no use in blocking it.

The third thing that I noticed is – let us suppose that you forget to signout and simply closed the browser. The next time you open the browser and go to site, say CNN, there appears at the bottom of every article, your name under “write your comments”. This means that CNN is aware of your identity to be displaying it. Is this information derived from your browser cookies? Or is Facebook sharing your information, without your consent, to all and sundry?

Hence, I would be very careful in what I write, what I share and the sites I visit when I am logged into Facebook. If your BOSS is around, I would be extra careful!!!

For tips on Facebook settings, I found this site to be very useful:

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