Yes, Facebook and Privacy – again

With so many users sharing their personal information and what their doing, it is inevitable that when talking about Privacy the topic of Facebook comes up again and again.  Even more inevitable when Facebook continue to push the bounds of what seems reasonable.  The latest two developments are a supposedly easier to understand, plain English privacy statement and their plans to share your phone number and address.

Taking the latter first, there is an excellent article on msnbc by Helen Popkin.  I love her frog analogy:

“Facebook is the slowly-warming pot of water and we, my friends, are the frog. By the time we noticed our peeling skin, another hunk of our privacy is long gone.

This is how Facebook rolls: Strip away a huge chunk of your privacy, cry “Our bad!” and roll it back when users and/or privacy advocates complain. Then wait awhile, and do whatever it is Facebook planned to do anyway.

Voila! Boiled frog.”

I am struggling to see why as a Facebook User I would ever want my phone number and address revealed.  Almost certainly apps will ask for it, but do so in a disingenuous way – obscuring the real intent.

Over to the new, easy to understand Facebook privacy policy.  Is it? – well not really.  Firstly, it says the legalese version is still the true policy, but more importantly this new policy runs over many, many pages – by the time you read it you really won’t be clearer about what they do.     Have a look and tell me what you think – most comments I have seen seem to agree with me that its nicer English, but only marginally clearer overall.

My major criticism of Facebook with regard to Privacy still stands (and I suspect will always be the case).  That is when you first sign up to using Facebook its all about finding your friends, inviting them to share with you and having them accept that invitation – this is an enormously strong indication that your status posts, photos, etc are private between you and your accepted friends.  Except of course the implication is wrong.  The default privacy levels are wide open for all the major items such as status updates and photos – anyone can see what you post.  The vast majority of users will not realise this and hence open themselves up to self harm by exposing their lives to anyone who cares to search for them – and with a permanence they cannot erase.

(I should declare an interest in my Privacy comments: I am founder and CEO of which is “Private, secure sharing made simple”.  Though I emphasise that my comments are my firm beliefs and not because of DAD; DAD was created because of my beliefs that privacy should be clear – see my earlier post suggesting clear privacy levels and principles.)

About Julian Ranger

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Posted on March 3, 2011, in Privacy and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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