Tag Archive for privacy

Facebook Freak-Out!

I am surprised by the level of hysteria over Facebook’s latest privacy changes and security breaches. Here’s why I’m neither upset nor leaving.

Facebook has no social contract with its users. Facebook is a company trying to carve out the largest possible niche on the Internet, by any means necessary. Some companies have a conscience. Don’t expect Facebook to.

Facebook offered the illusion of privacy. Some people mistook this for actual privacy. I suggest that people treat Facebook as if it were completely public. Post only information that you would be okay seeing on any website.

Many other websites expose plenty of your personal information: usernames, IP addresses, avatar (e.g., bulletin boards, listserv archives).

Facebook is not alone in using your posted content to target advertising to you. Yes, Facebook has taken this to a new level, but why does this come as a surprise?

Facebook is still the best way to stay in contact with your friends. If you object to their practices, then post only information you’re comfortable having public.

Facebook pages are incredibly effective for building a relationship with an organization’s constituents. It’s easy to post media, easy for people to express interest, and easy for them to interact with you. In the last couple of months, two individuals raised $2,000 through Causes birthday wishes for a nonprofit I help run. We didn’t solicit the gift. It just happened.

Will a better site come along and displace Facebook? It is more likely to happen now that Facebook is making more information public, which also makes it available to potential competitors. If another site does rise, don’t believe their privacy claims, either!

Image: http://www.civic.moveon.org/facebook/chart/

Facebook privacy changes in schools

This week, I sent my first “Facebook warning” to employees, students, and parents. Here’s the teacher version.

Dear Colleagues,

Facebook has implemented new privacy settings that make it much easier to broadly share your personal information. If you accept Facebook’s recommended privacy settings, Facebook will make your status updates, links, photos, videos, and notes available to the entire Internet (think Google). I recommend that you instead manually adjust your settings. Select Settings -> Privacy Settings from the blue menu bar and review the options in there.

In addition, Facebook will now share your friend list both on the Internet and with third-party Facebook applications. You do not have control over that.

This article explains the change in greater detail.

I encourage you to raise this topic with your students. Let me know if you have further questions.


Facebook has made significant changes to their privacy policy before. Why did I react strongly to this particular one? So many students, a lot of parents, and a number of teachers use Facebook regularly. Privacy is an important concern for all of these groups but particularly for students. The new features directly affect user privacy, and Facebook’s recommended settings reduce user privacy. In the past year, we have gained a more detailed understanding of Facebook use in our school community. We felt it appropriate to help our users keep up with the moving target of Facebook privacy settings.

By finely managing one’s privacy and post settings, it’s now possible to maintain a fine degree of control over one’s posts. However, that control may be illusory, as Facebook seems happy to change the rules on their platform pretty regularly. Who knows where and when they will head next.