Friday, June 4, 2010

Unravelling The Myth of Online Privacy

Following on from Alysha's post about Facebook Privacy, the debate has heated up in recent weeks - forcing Facebook to change it's policy.

As we have already seen awareness of privacy issues has grown with searches for Facebook Privacy changes reaching *breakout* level (over 5000% growth in a year).

The info graph on the right showed the labyrinthine structure - no wonder users were confused. Not to mention the fact that the privacy policy is now an epic 5,800 words long - longer than the US Constitution.

The other issue of course, is that once you post something on Facebook, you give them the IP. See a little-read clause in the T&Cs:

For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos ("IP content"), you specifically give us the following permission subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide licence to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook ("IP Licence"). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.

There are two things in there that should strike fear into any avid Facebooker. 'Transferable' - means they can pass [read sell] your content to any third-party they please. And 'unless your content has been shared with others' so something like your profile photo, which is by default shared with everybody, friend or no, could feasibly end up in a shiny Facebook TVC and you couldn't do a thing about it. Like this unsuspecting US family found out:

Fortunately for them, the Czech company quickly pulled the billboard down - but do you trust Facebook to be so accommodating? When this is the exchange from their CEO, I wouldn't count on it....

Zuck: Yeah so if you ever need info about anyone at Harvard
Zuck: Just ask.
Zuck: I have over 4,000 emails, pictures, addresses, SNS
[Redacted Friend's Name]: What? How'd you manage that one?
Zuck: People just submitted it.
Zuck: I don't know why.
Zuck: They "trust me"
Zuck: Dumb fucks

The backlash was bad enough, with sites like quitfacebookday emerging and mainstream press like the dailymail (you don't get more mass than the mail...) helping whip up hysteria, that Facebook back-tracked and changed their policy. They have simplified the maze of settings, but it remains opt-out rather than opt-in. Time will tell if users eventually get fed up and Facebook goes the way of previous social media darlings, Friends Reunited, Myspace, Bebo et al - but in the meantime we should keep an eye on that other digital behemoth who are busily doing no evil...

No comments:

Post a Comment