Controversial Point of View?
Recently, when Facebook introduced the possibility for App Developers to request more information from users, there was outrage. Many users complained that it was an infringement of their privacy, and as the proverbial porridge was stirred by news sites and bloggers, Facebook back-tracked and removed this functionality. Now the US Congress is pressing Facebook for their intentions regarding data. All of this high-profile questioning paints Facebook in a rather dim light, regarding data sharing, but is that fair or even correct?
Well, I want to highlight a couple of words in that last paragraph that are extremely important. Those words are “possibility” and “request”. App Developers had the possibility to request more data, but end-users had the ability to deny that request. So you understand, the data wasn’t just being handed over to the App Developers: the end-user was required to agree to the transaction.
Online and Offline Transactions
The trouble is that the majority of people appear to deal with transactions online very differently from transactions offline.
In the offline world the majority of us go for caution, following guidelines from banks and mobile companies, not to share our data. When we do share our data, we’re present at the time of the transaction – sharing it either verbally or physically handing it over.
Online, and in particular on Facebook, it seems that people are not so cautious. They see an App that they want and, without reading what information is being requested, they click OK, accepting all the terms and conditions associated with that App. Where does this complacency stem from? Do people forget what data they included when they signed up for Facebook, or is it because online the transaction happens virtually, and we can’t quite compute that it’s a real transaction?
As the time of writing this post, App Developers can request to access your Basic Information which if you look in your App settings Includes name, profile picture, gender, networks, user ID, list of friends and any other information I’ve shared with everyone. Let me just stress this. Any content that you have on Facebook that is “available to everyone” is considered public information.
Are you wondering if your data’s safe? Here are some steps for you to start taking responsibility for your own data, on Facebook.
How to secure your data on Facebook
- Don’t include personal data that you don’t need to – that includes telephone number and home address. These are not compulsory to set up a Facebook account
- Lock down your privacy settings – make sure that you don’t share your data with everyone (which is the default)
- Don’t accept Apps that ask for more information than you’re happy with.
- Some Apps ask to post on your wall. Either don’t accept these, or go into the App Settings to remove this functionality, immediately after you’ve accepted the App.
Some advice for App Developers - Think
Only request information that you need. More people will choose to add your application to their profile, this way. You don’t need to post to someone’s wall, and if they do allow you to do that, what are you going to do on there – spam that person and all their friends. How effective an advertising campaign do you think that will be in the realm of social media?
So, as I said at the top of this post, Facebook is not responsible for your data. You are. It’s up to you, as an End-Users, to place a higher value on your information. Although there’s peer pressure to join Facebook ultimately if you’re not happy with any of the settings, you don’t need to have a Facebook account (perish the thought). But if you decide to continue using Facebook, follow the advice and don’t turn a Facebook App acceptance into a Facebook Oops.