With failed privacy policies, Facebook turns off trust settings

November 11, 2010 — by Staff Ed

In an age where social interaction has shifted increasingly to the digital sphere, the issue of privacy has become especially controversial. How much privacy is guaranteed online? What information can or cannot be shared?

Most social networking sites, such as Facebook, have policies for protecting the data users share on their profiles. However, a recent investigation conducted by the Wall Street Journal found that hundreds of the applications available on Facebook, such as the popular game “Farmville,” were secretly transmitting user data to advertising firms in clear violation of Facebook’s privacy policies. With such revelations coming out regularly, Facebook has indeed gone too far in profiting off of user information.

In May, the website rewrote its rules to allow its users to keep personal information confidential, but that effort has clearly had little impact.

The main problem lies with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who believes that his users, all 500 million of them, should be more open with their information. Although many of his employees disagrees with his principles, Zuckerberg decided to implement the “Friendship” page, making it easier for the increasingly addictive “Facebook stalking” by publicizing conversations and photos between users. Friendship pages, originally created to “blossom friendships,” have faced much opposition from the social networking community.

The website has been working on revamping its privacy settings, but the issue of third-party applications extracting information remains a problem.

While applications do play an integral role in the social networking experience by transforming Facebook into a hub for all kinds of activity apps, it is important that the company regulates the information shared. Applications, used by over 70 percent of users, according to Facebook, are considered an important way for Facebook to extend the usefulness of its network.

The information being shared is one of Facebook’s basic building blocks: the unique “Facebook ID” number assigned to every user on the site. The Facebook ID, which is different for every user, contains all the information a user has added onto his or her profile. Since the user ID is a public part of every Facebook profile, anyone can use an ID number to look up a person’s name, even if that person has set all of his or her Facebook information to be private.

To regain the trust of its users, the company must prevent third-party applications from taking advantage of unaware Facebook users and create an environment in which everyone is comfortable with the privacy settings.

4 views this week