Many of us use Facebook as a way to connect with friends. We post our personal information, including our birthdates, city of residence, likes and dislikes, and contact information. In doing so, we expect that only those we have accepted as friends will be able to view this information. We are wrong.
A Bad Example
Ron Bowes, in an attempt to highlight issues related to the accessibility of Facebook profile information, collected data from 100million users and published it on the web in an easy, free, downloadable torrent. Facebook responded that the information was public, so this intrusion was no big deal. Users profile URLs, name, and IDs were listed. It is understandable that Bowes wanted to bring attention to the issue of privacy, but he did it by exposing millions of profiles!
Do You Know Your Default Privacy Settings?
Facebook users may trust that the default privacy settings protect their personal data from public exposure, but this is definitely NOT the case. Default settings place a user’s status, photos, posts, bio, family, and relationships completely open to the public. These settings also open up photos and videos that users are tagged in, religious and political views, and birthday to friends of friends. For a moment, consider the implications of this.
How About the Directory?
Even deeper in the default settings is the Facebook Directory. This area is where users set up what information is generally available in searches. Facebook makes name, profile picture, gender, and networks open to everyone, but users may want to check out some of the other directory permissions such as who can send messages to them, who can view the user’s friend list, see education and work, city and hometown, and interests. These settings are entirely within the control of the user.
Manage Your Exposure
Unfortunately, Facebook doesn’t see anything wrong with revealing its users’ personal information. The default settings do nothing to protect privacy and individuals must manually navigate the Facebook settings maze to change them.
Don’t Forget Applications!
In addition to the directory and profile areas, Facebook applications also access your personal information and will use it within the application when others view it. Before granting permission, consider the application and whether you wish to share your profile.
Is It Safe?
Unless users actively alter their privacy settings, the data is at risk. Facebook does not have its members’ best interests and privacy in mind. Protect yourself because Facebook won’t.