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What am I going to find out about you?

Are you sharing way more than you think or would like to and don't even know about it? Many Facebook users are finding that out.

Note: This article contains excerpts from article: Facebook's Washington Problem published in Bloomberg Business Week Magazine May 17 - May 23, 2010 and a few Online Blog Posts.

Today Facebook users revolted over privacy fears (as reported by The Frontline in the U.K)
New research from data protection firm Sophos shows the majority of Facebook users are considering quitting the social network because of privacy fears. The research shows that it is not only global data protection bodies that are anxious about Facebook's privacy settings.

Sophos took a poll of 1588 Facebook users and found that 60 per cent are considering leaving the network because they do not believe they have enough control over their data.

Another 16 per cent of those polled claim to have already stopped using Facebook because of its lack of privacy.

Meanwhile, since Facebook introduced its latest controversial privacy settings in December, it admits that 50 per cent of users have changed the pre-selected settings on their account, compared to 15 to 20 per cent previously.

The December changes meant that more details contained in user profiles were publically displayed by default, including picture, current city, list of friends and fan pages. Users had previously been given the option of exposing a limited profile or remaining hidden altogether.

Facebook has admitted its privacy policy is "too complex" for users and is reportedly planning to make changes to it within a matter of days.

The article: Facebook's Washington Problem, published in Bloomberg Business Week, clearly outlines that there's always a challenge of innovating faster than the users understand or are willing to accept. The users feel, rightly so, that they should be the ones to choose to share their information not, the other way around. At a result, the six-year-old online phenomenon continually tests their tolerance for sacrificing policy.

Now it has provoked a new skirmish - this time with members of the U.S. Congress. Some the issues raised by members of Congress are:

  • Facebook's arrogance in brushing off questions about its practices
  • Feature launched by Facebook that builds restaurant guides and music playlists derived from personal information supplied by users and their Facebook firends
  • Commercially valuable information is being shared with other Web sites and marketers without users' consent.

Since its start in 2004, Facebook has amassed one of the world's richest stores of facts and figures related to consumer behavior shared by more than 400 million people worldwide. Industry analysts say that the new data-gathering features Facebook has initiated could help bring the company more ad dollars.

According to Danah Boyd, a research at Microsoft, which has invested in the social network, "people are now recognizing that Facebook has an economic incentive to encourage people to be more public - about their consumer preferences."

The company has a history of "grabbing" information from users without their consent or them even knowing about it. Back in 2007m Facebook launched Beacon, a program that broadcast user activity within the network and tracked what "Facebookers" did elsewhere on the Web. Beacon did all of this without asking users' permission. Facebook users protested and Zuckerberg, the company's CEO, apologized publicly and in September of 2009, the company shut Beacon down.

The latest Facebook features are reminiscent of Beacon but this time the users may not be as forgiving (hence the % of users' discontent as stated The Frontline blog post).

Facebook now lets ESPN, Levis, or anyone else install a "like" button on their Web site. Facebook users who visit one of these properties and click "like" may unknowingly identify themselves as fans of a certain brand, letting that company access their personal information.

On May 12, officials from 30 European Countries wrote a letter to Facebook saying it was "unacceptable" for the company to have "fundamentally changed" the site's default settings.

Unless and until Facebook backpedals as a result of the backlash surrounding the "lack of privacy", the net net is that: if users don't want their information to be shared, they have to sift through their Facebook account settings and click a series of boxes. 

In short, users should have to choose to share their information, not the other way around.

At Supreme Social Media we take Privacy Issues very seriously.  To educate individuals, corporations and parents on the importance of privacy settings, Supreme Social Media has created The Beginner’s Guide to Facebook and Facebook Guide for Parents. Visit our sites for more information and please feel free to post your questions about Privacy Issues on our Facebook Fan Page at http://www.Facebook.com/SupremeSocialMedia

Please share your thoughts and comments about Facebook's Privacy or should we say "lack of privacy" issues.  Your opinion matter.


 

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