Tuesday 11 May 2010

Facebook: From figleaf privacy to fully dressed discretion

More Facebook about-face

Many of my friends and readers of my blogs would have read a number of postings about my experiences with Facebook.

There is no doubt that Facebook serves some purpose, I now have connections that date back to primary school about 40 years ago, a good number of secondary school friends are back in my social circle and I am also in contact with close and distant relations along with different acquaintances from all walks of my life.

In that way, Facebook provides a rich social networking experience, the problem arises when having put in all the information that creates the conditions for making, renewing or reestablishing connections you find that you have minimal control over who get access to that information.

Your privates are exposed

Facebook is a sponge for every detail of your life and everything you inadvertently put in can become global knowledge beyond your relations and friends to potential employers, detractors or worse.

Facebook itself is not known to have exemplary ethical conduct in the management of the privacy of its patrons, the company is in flux trying to determine who all this information from over 400 million accounts can be commercialised and monetarised without us having a say over what get push to us by our details or as a result of our relationship.

AllFacebook.com recently posted an article on how the default privacy settings had changed on Facebook between 2005 and April 2010 – I winced at how exposed I had become, it was like an involuntary strip-tease as you clothes were ripped off till I was left with the postscript of a tweet I posted – You only have a fig-leaf for your privates.

The animation of that graphics were originally published by Matt McKeon with the title - The Evolution of Privacy on Facebook – He includes information on how the data was sampled and the comments that follow do help one understand what might be at stake.

Rapidly evolving rules

What is driving the quest for more privacy and sometimes the exodus from Facebook is that the Terms of Service and rules are changing rapidly in favour of the company just exposing more and more of our information in the name of helping more social interaction – nothing could be further from the truth about that.

Personally, I have been actively locking down areas of information that I have put on Facebook just because I do not have much control over where all that information might end up.

Now, for those who are not as technically savvy or understanding of the finer details of privacy, secrecy and confidentiality – if you may know, these words are not synonyms, they mean completely different things, but you have to secure your privacy, manage your secrecy and definitely do not trust strangers with information you feel should be confidential – the underlying question being who can you trust with detail about what you like, what you do and what you’ll rather not share.

How to …

Jason Perlow, a writer for ZDNet; a technical magazine offers some advice in a video which can be very helpful in Lock Down Your FaceBook Profile in 20 Minutes (Video) – some of his suggestions take it to the extreme with the assumption that only friends that already know you are your default contacts, but you need to leave in enough information to distinguish you in some way to old friends like schools and other basic historical information.

You need something to network with but be smart about what you leave in, what you take out and in a more granular setting create lists of most trusted friends and give them more access whilst closing access to others.

Let us use Facebook for what we have intended for it to help us do, link up with friends and family and thwart attempt by the behemoth to convert our precious relationships into filthy lucre.

One piece of advices you should take away from this is to check your profile every month to see that it is still as watertight as you want it to be as Facebook shape-shifts around your privacy. Use Facebook but do not let it use you unethically and unfairly.


[1] INFOGRAPHIC: The History Of Facebook’s Default Privacy Settings

[2] The Evolution of Privacy on Facebook

[3] Lock Down Your FaceBook Profile in 20 Minutes (Video) | ZDNet

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