Too much on Facebook

A very interesting read on Facebook talking about how it’s becoming like a “true democracy”. It’s funny how after reading the article, everything just seemed to fall into place and really ‘click’. It’s really quite true what the author wrote! We’re not simply users on Facebook and adding our friends and writing on walls; we are actively reading and engaging, and with the recent privacy developments, we are also actively voicing our opinions over the changes. There’s a very high level of participation, and FB’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been taking into account its users opinions, just “like a true democracy, and adjusted settings as necessary”. (Read the rest of the article here)

Not all of what the article says is true, of course, and it seems impossible that FB will become so big that it will resemble or become a new government… but I was more intrigued with all the privacy and security issues associated with FB. Sure, they’ve changed the settings to become more simple and user-friendly, but it doesn’t take away the fact that we don’t know exactly what personal info gets shared online to advertisers or third parties… On Quit Facebook Day up to 30,000 users have quit FB, but that’s just 0.008 percent of the FB population (which has over 400 million users) (source).

I know I’ve been going on and on about FB privacy, and naturally I should’ve been one of the first people to sign up for the Quit Facebook Day. But it has come to a point in my FB life that I just cannot bring myself to delete my profile… not after all the connections I’ve made and links I’ve shared and photos I’ve uploaded! It’ll be like committing suicide!

But just by the way, if you haven’t privatised your FB settings, you really should now. A useful tool I found is this website reclaimyourprivacy.org. Just follow the instructions and see what settings you need to change from there.

If your status updates and photos are open to “everyone”, you risk finding yourself on YourOpenBook.org, which is, in short:

… a Facebook-specific search engine, built upon Facebook’s publicly available API,[1] which enables one to search for specific texts on the walls of Facebook subscribers en masse which they have denoted, knowingly or unknowingly, as being available to “Everyone,” i.e. to the Internet at large. Both an avowed parody of Facebook and an Internet privacyadvocacy website, it was built by San Francisco website developers Will Moffat, Peter Burns and James Home within a few hours on May 12, 2010, and has received nearly six million page views in its first two weeks on-line from over a million people in over two hundred countries. The website has received extensive media attention from, among others, the Wall Street Journal,[2]NPR[3] and ABC News,[4] including international coverage.[5]

(from Wikipedia)

The last I checked there are over 17,000 searches per hour, and I’ve used it randomly before and found that I was able to click through people’s profiles and easily find out at least 5 things about them (where they live, their birthday, their photos, their workplace, their school) from that page alone. So imagine someone going through your profile! It’s crazy!

I recently came across a funny, but scarily true, quote from a friend on FB, which went something like “Before Facebook, I had to break into my friend’s house to find out what music they liked”. And well, compare that to youropenbook.org and think about the potential randoms “breaking into your house” right now and finding out all these things about you. It’s creepy.

But what about Twitter?

With the amount of updating we do on Twitter, it’s insane to think of what people could do with that info. Of course, it seems a bit harder for any privacy settings to be breached on Twitter simply because it has so much less personal information as compared to FB… but did you know that Twitter collects personal information about its users and shares it with third parties? Read their privacy policy and find out for yourself.

If you have Twitter, I’m sure you’ve also noticed how suddenly some brand replies you right after you tweeted about them. A friend of mine updated a tweet about her disappointment with the Telstra service, and within minutes she received a reply from Telstra’s twitter account, with a representative asking her what the problem was and offering right there and then to fix it for her. Awesome customer service, or heavy Twitter monitoring?

Advertisers are watching your every tweet” puts an interesting point forward:

Is that an invasion of your privacy? It’s not like advertisers are sneaking around watching where you surf without telling you. They are listening to what you have chosen to shout to the whole world.

For Twitter users, all this is a reminder that privacy and Twitter don’t mix. Not only is what you tweet there for anyone to read, it is there for anyone to take, copy and exploit. Twitter’s terms of service, unlike those on most other user-generated sites, assert no claim to the users’ tweets or place no restrictions on how others use them.

In other words, don’t tweet anything that you aren’t willing to see on a billboard in Times Square or broadcast on the Super Bowl.

The terms do say, “We encourage users to contribute their creations to the public domain or consider progressive licensing terms.” But there is no way currently for Twitter users to assert rights over their tweets or simply to request that their comments not be used for commercial purposes.

Another interesting fact about Twitter?

All public tweets, since 2006, will be archived by the Library of Congress (source). More than an invasion of our privacy, it has been reassured as a great way to archive our history for future generations to read, especially with relations to tweets regarding major events that’s happened in the world such as those on Obama’s election and on the Haiti earthquake, among others (source). So if you have a public twitter account, don’t publish anything you don’t want future generations to come across while reading the web pages of history!

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