Facebook Privacy: New Data Use Policy Banks on User Laziness

facebook privacy 2Is there such a thing as Facebook privacy? You’ve might have heard that Facebook is proposing a new Data Use Policy and Statement of Rights and Responsibilities (formerly known as a privacy policy). No one refers to it as a Privacy Policy anymore, because there is absolutely no sign of privacy left. And if you read the email from Facebook alerting you to the changes, or even the summary of changes that they provide, you are left with no clear idea of the magnitude of those alterations (you’d have to read the actual suggested changes).

Facebook is masking privacy erosion with a deceptive executive summary. The latest changes make me very uncomfortable in three ways:

  1. It appears that Facebook has left open the option to collect and utilize your mobile phone number when you access Facebook from your mobile device. That is valuable information to advertisers who want to text, call or serve up ads to you directly.
  2. Facebook is already using, and will continue to use facial recognition software to identify photos that you are in (even if they aren’t your photos), and recommend that they be tagged with your identity. Now they are considering adding your profile photo as a benchmark for the facial recognition software. In other words, the minute any photo is put up with you in it, it can be tagged and exposed to the rest of the world. You can change your Timeline & Tagging Settings to stop non-consensual tagging.
  3. By default and unless you make somewhat complicated changes, your photos can be used in advertisements. Any photos you load to Facebook can be served up to your network in connection with items you have “Liked”, which means that your picture (or worse yet, your child’s) can show up next to the raunchy movie you just “Liked”.

As quoted in the British newspaper, The Register, Facebook is practically flaunting your addiction to their social network, knowing you will likely do nothing about it:

“You give us permission to use your name, profile picture, content, and information in connection with commercial, sponsored, or related content (such as a brand you like) served or enhanced by us. This means, for example, that you permit a business or other entity to pay us to display your name and/or profile picture with your content or information, without any compensation to you… You understand that we may not always identify paid services and communications as such.”

Facebook is so confident that you won’t make the necessary changes to your privacy settings (let alone actually deleting your Facebook account), that they can arrogantly announce these changes without fear of reprisal. They are literally banking on your apathy.

There is good news! You have two clear options:

  1. You have 7 days to comment on Facebook’s new policies before they take effect. If there is a strong enough backlash against these erosive changes, they will rethink their position (maybe – or they might just outlast you until you’ve stopped paying attention). But the backlash won’t happen without your input.
  2. You can outright delete your Facebook account, but don’t do it until you have downloaded a copy of your data, posts, pictures and such. Even then, they reserve the right to use the data you already posted for a certain period of time.

In the coming days, I will post a video on how to do both of these items.

John Sileo is a keynote speaker and CEO of The Sileo Group, a privacy think tank that trains organizations to harness the power of their digital footprint. Sileo’s clients include the Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security and businesses looking to protect the information that makes them profitable.



Facebook Email: Putting Every Last Egg in One Basket

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Facebook wants a piece of every social interaction you have, which is why they are poised to offer you a free email account, just like Gmail or Hotmail.

Facebook’s newest features (email and eventually a built-in search engine) are aimed at making their website your one-stop shop for all things internet. Rumor has it that at 10:30am PT, Facebook will offer their existing users email addresses. And millions of existing users will take them up on their offer because it will be cool to have a Facebook email account and because we are all in short supply of email accounts to check 24/7. Other sources are saying that Facebook will soon be offering a search engine as well.

As of December 2009, Gmail had over 1.8 million monthly users. Facebook currently has more than 500 million active users – even if a fraction of them use Facebook’s webmail in place of Gmail, it will significantly decrease Google’s hold on the industry. And Hotmails, and Yahoo’s. Why check 3 sources of information (mail, social networking, search) when you can simply check one?

For starters, you are putting all of your data eggs in one basket. Not only will Facebook control your profile (full of personally identifying information), your updates (that let them know what you are up to – if you think that this can’t be digitally scanned and analyzed, think again), your current location (thanks to Places), your photos, videos, friends and groups (I never knew you were a closet Democrat!), now they will be overseeing your email content (yes, they will reserve the right to scan your emails and advertise to you and those whom you email based on that content) and your search engine keywords (if they do add a search engine function and you type in depression medication, Facebook and all of their partners now know that you have a higher chance of being depressive).

All of which means that Facebook is increasingly becoming a One-Stop Shop for Marketing Data Miners, Identity Thieves, Stalkers, Vengeance Seekers, Cyber Bullies, and of course, friends.

Let me ask you a question? Would you put every last penny you have in one investment? Would you eliminate all of your friends except your very closest one? Would you share everything about yourself to only a single individual? Probably not. The wise among us know how critically important it is to diversify a portfolio, to surround ourselves with many good people, not just one, to compartmentalize information so that no one person, no single company knows everything about us.

But Facebook is doing exactly that – collecting every gram of our personal information, social and otherwise, so that it can be aggregated, analyzed and sold. And the fault is still partially ours, because we will take them up on their free email.

And you probably won’t even have to do anything to sign up, BECAUSE FACEBOOK WILL SIGN YOU UP BY DEFAULT, just like they do with everything else. Whether you want it or not, you will now have a Facebook email address that is automatically populated with the Facebook email addresses of all of your friends (because they know who your friends are and know their email addresses already). It will be like Google Buzz all over again, but we will overlook it, because we are so damned interested in what our high school girlfriend is doing these days that we forget to pay attention to something that counts.

It is being speculated that Facebook Email will offer such things as photo slideshows, a better conversation thread, integrated contact bios, and contact groups. Apparently other email moguls are worried as well. AOL introduced their new webmail interface this morning to try to combat Facebook’s big announcement. We won’t have to wait long!

While Facebook is making their announcement, John Sileo is delivering a speech on Social Networking Safety for the Department of Defense. To help your organization anticipate Facebook fallout and other forms of social networking over exposure, contact him directly on 800-258-8076.