Three Things You Need to Know About Facebook Privacy

Posted on December 16th 2013

Three Things You Need to Know About Facebook Privacy

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If you’ve read this blog for a while, you know I used to be kind of obsessed with Facebook’s privacy fails. I frequently wrote posts detailing every one of Facebook’s “oops” pretend privacy slips (sorry for all the links--I’ll digress but I’m not exaggerating when I say I was obsessed). Then, just as Facebook wanted for everyone in the world, I just got over it. I stopped caring. Or, rather, I gave up any illusion that anything I or anyone else posts or does on Facebook is private and continued using it anyway because it’s convenient.

And I’m still using it. But three things I’ve read lately have reminded me that benign trust in Facebook can be dangerous. If you use Facebook, you really need to read these three posts to know just what you’re giving up in terms of privacy.

  • Danny Brown’s post about how, just by installing the Android version of the Facebook Messenger app, you are granting the app permission to automatically call numbers in your phone book, as well as to send SMS messages, record audio and pictures with your camera, all without your knowledge.

  • This Slate article about how Facebook actually saves and keeps even the status updates you don’t post. You know, like when you start typing something then decide it’s too personal or too offensive or too something, then think the better of it and don’t post it after all? Yeah, those posts. Facebook saves them and analyzes them to learn about what makes people self-censor. And, knowing Facebook, they’ll figure out a way to monetize that data at some point.

  • This Salon article about how Facebook can--and does--take private messages between users and make them public. It happened to the author recently--a private message from 2006 appeared on her public timeline recently. As the article points out, this isn’t the first time Facebook has had this particular “oops”--the same thing happened last year.

I need to take my own advice and take these things to heart because, while I don’t share stuff on Facebook that I wouldn’t share publicly, I do occasionally start typing something then think the better of it and not post on occasion--I need to stop doing this-- and I do participate in private Facebook groups--again, something I need to reconsider. And if you or your kids are thinking that Instagram’s new direct message feature is just the thing for your private messaging needs, just remember--Facebook owns Instagram. Just what the world needs: a bunch of Snapchat-like personal photos and videos becoming publicly accessible. But I’d be willing to bet a million dollars that’s exactly what will happen eventually, probably sooner rather than later.

Image by Alan Cleaver on Flickr

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Maggie McGary

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