Last year Facebook had to settle with the Federal Trade Commission over Facebook privacy issues which misled users about their real right to privacy using its service. A recent poll by AP-CNBC found that 59% of Facebook users do not trust the service to keep their information private. Yet despite the lack of trust, we still post incredibly personal information on Facebook.
Facebook Privacy Concerns
Why does Facebook need all of this information? The short answer is to make money. Facebook depends on revenue from ads to make a profit, and in order to sell its ads, it needs to show ad buyers why and how Facebook ads are different from ads on any other site. Right now, Facebook’s selling point to these ad buyers is its massive database of information on users, the primary cause of users’ Facebook privacy concerns.
- Treat your name, profile pictures, cover photos, gender, networks, username and User ID as public information, even if you’d rather keep them private.
- Receive and keep data about you it learns through your friends (such as photo tagging), its advertising partners, and game services using the Facebook platform.
- Use information it has about you to send you ads on sites other than Facebook.com.
- Keep the data about you “until it is no longer useful to provide you services” – in other words, until Facebook can’t monetize that data anymore, which could be forever.
How Facebook Privacy Issues Could Give Others Your Information
There is also the potential that the information Facebook shares about you with its advertising partners could be shared with less trustworthy partners even further removed from you. A gaming service like the popular Facebook-enabled Zynga, maker of Farmville and Mafia Wars among others, does not usually have the types of security measures in place that a service like Facebook has. This means that your information can easily fall into the wrong hands:
- A survey by ViaForensics found that 25% of mobile apps, and all social network apps tested, store user information in plain text format.
- LinkedIn recently came under fire after a data breach possibly involving a hack released millions of improperly encrypted passwords.
- Earlier this year, the “people search engine” Spokeo was fined by the Federal Trade Commission for misusing user data it collected from social networks, among other misdeeds.
Although Facebook implemented several new privacy protection measures after its privacy policies resulted in negative user reactions, these policies do not go far enough to really protect user information. What’s worse is there is no way to opt out of sharing much of this information with Facebook and its advertisers.
The only way you can avoid the risk entirely is by not using Facebook, and this is why Facebook’s disregard of user preferences may be going too far: With Facebook privacy not working, it could lose most of its user base in the U.S., especially once it ramps up its advertising program.