Facebook’s privacy issues: Do we really care?
Maybe it’s because there have been so many, but I am finding it hard to get upset about the latest Facebook privacy breach.
This week’s flap started when The Wall Street Journal
reported that several popular applications on the social network were
passing user identification data to third parties in violation of
Facebook’s own privacy policies. Once a third party has a user ID, they
can look up that person’s profile and potentially share personal
information with advertisers and web tracking companies.
unclear how many applications may be involved in the potential privacy
breach, although The Journal identified FarmVille and other popular
games as some of the apps where users were at risk. At its peak,
FarmVille was played by over 80 million Facebook members.
Of course, there was the usual outcry from privacy advocates such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
In a New York Times piece, EFF spokesperson Peter Eckersley described
the privacy breach as “extremely serious”. “Facebook, perhaps
inadvertently, is leaking the magic key to tracking you online,” he
Others are not so sure. This time, many blog posts and
comments appear to have a resigned air about them, as if people realize
that this is the price you have to pay if you are going to spend any
significant time online. Some went further, asking: What do people
expect? Facebook is designed for sharing identities and personal
information. Haven’t we been told often enough that everything we post
online is likely to become public knowledge?
Facebook is certainly
not alone when it comes to the problem of third-party applications. I
am always slightly alarmed when I download apps from the Android Market
and my smartphone warns me that “This application has access to your
location, network communication, storage, and phone calls.” But of
course, I click “Install” anyway, too concerned about getting the latest
weather or football scores to be worried about where my personal
information ends up.
And that is how the online privacy debate is
shaping up. The benefits we derive from the Internet in terms of
knowledge, communication, and entertainment far outweigh any concerns we
may have about privacy. Besides, as the Times article points out, credit card companies and magazines have access to far more detailed information about us than any Facebook application.
Monday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg dutifully apologized to users, as
he has done so many times before. But he knows better than most that a
flaw like this is not going to lose him any customers. We are too locked
into Facebook, too addicted to that News Feed and our favorite online
games to be worried about a little thing like privacy.
we be concerned about this latest privacy breach by Facebook? How much
privacy can we really expect from social networks? Share your thoughts
with the Online Mom!
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