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Monday, May 17, 2010

Facebook (anti)Privacy

The general feeling that Facebook isn't properly handling our personal data is growing quickly...

The NY Times had this interesting infographic on Facebook's Privacy Statements:

Since 2005 its more than quintupled in length and now has more words than the US Constitution.

I wonder how many people have actually read it. And I don't know about the rest of you, but I don't remember having to sign off on any changes to that statement either...

There's also another visualization mapping the site and locations for all the privacy setting options. (No, they're not all located in one place, that would be too easy).


The BBC also recently had this article on Facebook's company-wide 'privacy crisis meeting':

"Facebook has downplayed the significance of a company-wide meeting to discuss privacy issues.

The blogosphere described the meeting as a panic measure following weeks of criticism over the way it handles members' data.

Several US senators have made public calls for Facebook to rethink its privacy safeguards.

The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU, launched a petition directed at Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg."

"Earlier this week European data protection officials weighed in on the controversy and called privacy changes "unacceptable".

A number of high-profile users have also deleted their Facebook accounts after the site introduced a new feature that lets non-Facebook websites, or third parties, post the personal views of Facebook users without their consent."

Unfortunately (for the public), Facebook has ingrained itself into modern life and, for some, it's even their primary form of communication.

And here is yet another scary example on the access Facebook employees have to our data.
It is a transcript from an interview the author had with his friend, an employee for Facebook.

"The Rumpus: On your servers, do you save everything ever entered into Facebook at any time, whether or not it’s been deleted, untagged, and so forth?

Facebook Employee: That is essentially correct at this moment. The only reason we’re changing that is for performance reasons. When you make any sort of interaction on Facebook — upload a photo, click on somebody’s profile, update your status, change your profile information —"

"Rumpus: You said they’re changing the policy of keeping all information.

Employee: No. They’re never changing that policy. We still keep all information. What I was referring to, is that if anything, we’re going to start deleting more photos for performance reasons. We are the largest photo distributor in the world."

"Rumpus: You’ve previously mentioned a master password, which you no longer use.

Employee: I’m not sure when exactly it was deprecated, but we did have a master password at one point where you could type in any user’s user ID, and then the password..."

"Rumpus: Have you ever logged in to anyone’s account?

Employee: I have. For engineering reasons.

Rumpus: Have you ever done it outside of professional reasons?

Employee: I will say, when I first started working there, yes. I used it to view other people’s profiles which I didn’t have permission to visit. I never manipulated their data in any way; however, I did abuse the profile viewing permission at several initial points when I started at Facebook."

It's a fairly long article, but a very interesting read.
(The Rumpus thanks to A.Woodchuck)

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