"To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible;
to be credible we must be truthful." - Edward R Murrow

Facebook Privacy: The Word of the Week

The word of the week is PRIVACY.

(note: all links I include are the most recent links I can find meaning within the past day or so)

It has been a rough week for Facebook, and an even more troubling week for Facebook users. The privacy issues regarding Facebook have gotten so extreme that it made the cover of Time Magazine.

I am torn between feeling anger toward Facebook, or feeling critical of users like me. If Facebook users don't want private information getting out into the internet, then why are we all posting this information on Facebook in the first place?

These privacy issues are so extreme that May 31, 2010 has been dubbed as "Quit Facebook Day" by QuitFacebookDay.com. According to the site there are already over 10 thousand users signed up to quit. The site compares quitting Facebook to quitting smoking:

"Quitting Facebook isn't easy. Facebook is engaging, enjoyable and quite frankly, addictive. Quitting something like Facebook is like quitting smoking. It's hard to stay on the wagon long enough to actually change your habits. Having peer support helps, but the way to quit Facebook is not to start a group on Facebook about leaving Facebook."

Are the Facebook Quitters taking this way too seriously, or are the rest of us not taking it seriously enough?

The Wall Street Journal recently posted and article which confronted Facebook,Myspace, Livejournal, and other social-networking sites for "sending data to advertising companies that could be used to find consumers' names and other personal details."

In my previous blog entry I included many links regarding Facebook privacy as well as the terms of service & Facebook's privacy code, etc. But it is now being said that Facebook may have been breaching its own privacy policy.

WSJ interviews and posts quotes from a "Facebook spokesman." That really doesn't show much credibility, because we don't exactly know WHO this Facebook spokesman is. I will do a blog entry on credible sources & the use of anonymous sources in the near future. I would personally like to know WHO this "Facebook spokesman" is, and why doesn't he want his name to be attached to the quotes he is providing? There are numerous reasons why a source may want anonymity, but the only reasons that I feel are legitimate are if the quotes/information provided could cause the person to lose a job or put the person in danger. Why does WSJ trust this "Facebook spokesman." Why wasn't someone from Facebook who would agree to go on record and have his or her name printed alongside the quote chosen? Anyway, I seem to be getting off track. Although, that does count as PRIVACY. The Facebook spokesman desired the need for PRIVACY, and WSJ allowed him (or HER) to obtain this privacy, which is funny since the interview seems to focus on the LACK OF PRIVACY given to the users. Irony, the Facebook spokespeople desire privacy:

" '"We were recently made aware of one case where if a user takes a specific route on the site, advertisers may see that they clicked on their own profile and then clicked on an ad,' the Facebook spokesman said. 'We fixed this case as soon as we heard about it.' "

Mashable has always been one of my favorites (I even have given Mashable.com its own bookmark on my Safari Bookmarks Bar). Mashable writers have been consistently updating the site with the latest news regarding Facebook privacy. They reasonably posted a survey asking, "Are You Planning on Quitting Facebook? Why?" Since I last checked the poll the majority voted "I like Facebook. I'm staying."

ReclaimPrivacy.org states that their mission is to "promote privacy awareness on Facebook and elsewhere." The site provides a tool that may be used to scan your Facebook privacy settings.

Macworld.com promotes Reclaimprivacy.org, and advocates that the site is credible. Philip Michaels, Macworld.com's executive editor, tested the site on his own Facebook and reassures that Reclaimprivacy.org can be trusted:

"There’s one thing about the ReclaimPrivacy.org tool that struck me as curious: When I scanned my Facebook settings in Firefox, I got the all clear on everything—even the categories still flagged with a yellow Caution label in Safari. My takeaway message? As helpful as the ReclaimPrivacy.org tool is—and it is very helpful—it’s not a silver bullet for every privacy concern you’ll have on Facebook. The best weapon you have is still your own common sense—though a little clarity from Facebook itself would be welcome, too."

I would like to point out that the best point made in the quote above is "The best weapon you have is still your own common sense." Thank you so much for saying this. (I don't know if Philip Michaels will ever read this, but if he does I want to thank him. And I would also like to say that I am in love with my 13" Macbook Pro!)

For those of you who have read my previous post regarding Facebook, and my own personal experiences with Facebook you may be questioning my own common sense. Since I sent the Facebook officials my government issue ID and proof of residency. I trust that, because I sent it to Facebook through an e-mail. I did not post it publicly onto Facebook. I think that the biggest concern is that the information posted on people's Facebook is getting out to the public, whereas I personally trust that the e-mail exchanges between Facebook officials and myself will stay private.

An article on Telegraph.co.uk includes a quote from Mark Zuckerberg from his interview with Time Magazine:

" 'The way that people think about privacy is changing a bit. What people want isn’t complete privacy. It isn’t that they want secrecy. It’s that they want control over what they share and what they don't.Our core belief is that one of the most transformational things in this generation is that there will be more information available.... Even with all the progress that we've made, I think we're much closer to the beginning than the end of the trend.' "

I am not questioning Zuckerberg's credibility. (I am still willing to send you brownies if you let me get the information back from my old Facebook account which you disabled due to my overuse of Facebook. I am sorry, I just really love Facebook. As you can see I have been very good on my new Facebook account, but I would still appreciate obtaining the old information on my other disabled account) I am just wondering how many users Zuckerberg has polled or asked regarding the privacy issues. Is this something he has assumed, or has he reached out to the Facebook users and asked, "Hey, how are you feeling about our privacy policy. You feel safe?" If Zuckerberg has in fact done this, then I am sad that I was not included in the questioning.

I think that the big issue is Facebook users have maybe trusted Facebook a little too much, and shared more than they would have liked to via their Facebook profiles. The advice I can give is this (for people who would like advice for making their Facebook information more private, I have been helping my mother with her Facebook).

Make an e-mail address strictly for Facebook. Go to your Account Settings, and edit your information. You will first add an e-mail address to the one you already use for Facebook. Then once you have confirmed that e-mail address via e-mail you can delete the e-mail address you previously used to log onto your Facebook account and have the new "strictly Facebook" e-mail address as the only e-mail address used for Facebook. This way if any advertisers do somehow obtain your e-mail address, they do not have your PERSONAL e-mail address, only the address that you use to log onto your Facebook account.

Only add people on Facebook that you trust, or create different "lists" or "groups" which customize which friends can see what, etc.

Edit your application's privacy by going to your privacy settings.

The thing about Facebook Privacy is that usually the new features are enabled automatically for everyone's Facebook, and we all need to go in and manually disable the features that allow applications to obtain information, etc.

Don't post things that you don't want people to see, and if you already have -- go through your Facebook profile and delete the things that you don't want posted.

I think the bigger issue is people that are adding their professional acquaintances to Facebook and then posting drunk photos & compromising status updates.

I have personally deleted most of my youtube videos (I had about 45 at one point), and I have tried to delete all the things that I posted back when I was in middle school & high school (including my old blog that I had during high school which I used more as my public diary and less as a blog). There are still traces of me on the internet that I cannot get rid of due to forgetting of passwords and things that I posted elsewhere or that someone else has posted of me, but I think that I am young enough to be able to redeem myself and keep myself in good shape in regards to The Future of Journalism.

So, I think the big lesson here is: Yes, Facebook has done some things that are wrong and have broken the trust with some of its users, but Facebook users should think twice about posting things on the internet that are private in the first place. If you are posting something on the internet that you only want specific people to know, give those people a phone call, tell them in person, send an e-mail, etc. Facebook, Twitter, etc. aren't the only ways to communicate.

This entire issue is worldwide, and I feel like by only posting the articles via USA & UK news sources that I am leaving out the fact that Facebook users are WORLD WIDE, and this privacy issue is affecting all of the users. I was born in the Philippines, raised in America with my Filipino mom and American dad, and I like to pride myself on keeping up with all international news, so I feel obligated to include links to other news sources outside of the US that involve Facebook Privacy. All links are directed to the Facebook Privacy articles both in the US and outside the US. Basically, here is a list of other articles about Facebook Privacy that I didn't talk about in my blog entry:

The Times of India

Irish Times

Montreal Gazette


PC World

EWeek Europe

Strategy Eye

Privacy. That's the word of the week.

Tune in next Saturday to see the next Word of the Week.

(That is, if there is another word that can outdo the popularity of the word "privacy" for next week, or will we still be dealing with Facebook privacy issues…)

This post is also posted here for Zennie62.com

If you have any questions, comments, suggestions or concerns e-mail menikkyraney@nikkyraney.com

For Twitter updates, I have recently made my twitter account public.

"People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people - and that social norm is just something that has evolved over time." --Mark Zuckerberg

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