Facebook: Privacy Please

Julie Marsh

privacy facebook
Flickr photo by hyku
I joined Facebook in 2007 and promptly deactivated my account a few months later in protest of Facebook's intolerance of breastfeeding photos.

But as Facebook gained popularity, particularly with the advent of vanity URLs for fan pages, I had to sacrifice my principles and reactivate my account for work purposes. (Aside: How unreal is it that social media is now a legitimate aspect of work?) And I must admit, I've embraced Facebook wholeheartedly.

However, I'll leave again -- or scrub my profile to the point of austerity -- if they pull any funny business with my data.

As a writer who makes a living by oversharing, I suppose it seems odd that I'd be put off by Facebook's privacy settings. Truly, I'm not concerned so much for myself as I am for others.

Those of us who blog and tweet and can't manage to use the bathroom without bringing our iPhones along have been far more immersed in social media for far longer than the majority of Facebook users. We're more careful about what we put out there for public consumption because we learned lessons about privacy long ago -- whether we were Dooced, or our blogs were discovered by our in-laws, or a somewhat mentally unstable "fan" showed up on our doorstep.

But I observe what others post on Facebook and I wonder if they've thought through the potential implications. Not just my teen-aged friends, but adults too.

However, the more insidious issue -- beyond what Facebook users consciously type -- is the default privacy settings, which have once again been reset. Vaunted by Facebook executives as "enhancing privacy," the new framework has left Facebook users' profile wide open. It's up to each of us individually to lock down those settings.

That's just shady, in and of itself. It's like a landlord who randomly comes by and unlocks your apartment door, leaving your possessions open to the inspection of passersby.

But what really irritates me -- from the perspective of someone who's got both a large personal and professional investment in social media and a healthy distrust of Facebook and its youthful, poorly spoken CEO -- is that Facebook is opening up these doors in an effort to gain more page views. More information available to be indexed by search engines means more Facebook pages returned in search engine results, which means more inbound clicks to Facebook pages and higher ad revenue for Facebook.

Just what we need: More garbage in our search engine results.

I locked down my profile, and I locked down my husband's too. The vast majority of Facebook users won't do it though.

At least I can hope that their ignorance of these privacy betrayals will result in enough ad revenue that Facebook won't start charging users. Because that's the other line I won't cross.


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