Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Facebook and Privacy

I first heard it on the radio, from local DJs discussing the matter.  Looked at it in the local paper.  What is seen here is not Facebook intentionally, nor maliciously transmitting privacy, but the leaking of it through 3rd party apps.  This is done through what is about a 15 year old application within virtually all internet browsers available, and almost a core necessity to run a majority of applications and gadgets that you find throughout the web.  And this little application is called a cookie.  To brush up on what a cookie is, feel free to look at the Wiki here.

Privacy groups would like to blame Facebook and say in a rather unrealistic view that because Facebook has been assuring privacy for so long that they should be directly held accountable for the leaks through cookies.  The problem is, the leak comes from the opting in to third party apps, by which the leak springs from the use of cookies to use the apps.  This is really not conspiracy theory type stuff that the Privacy groups would hyperbole. What's really at the core of this is that web browsers and interface needs to start looking at ways to make application work that does not have to be done through the use of cookies.

Also, it would help for third parties to make it clear that, in opting in to their application that there is a possibility of being opted into certain ad networks.  As long as that is clear, then legally, the persons then held accountable for what happens to their privacy is the person who agrees to opt in.  In that case, even the privacy groups would have to admit that, in the end, the only one that can keep a person's identification from being passed around is in the hands of the person him/herself.

In the online world, because it is basically a public forum, people have to be proactive in protecting their information.  It doesn't matter what assurances a company like Facebook makes.  Those assurances generally only apply to that company, and primarily to their abilities to secure their own network that you opt into.  You opt into a third party app and you, the user of that app reduces that assurance.

In a way, it is almost like with a health insurance policy.  You initially start the policy in a safe job, and under reasonably good health.  The insurance company assesses your risk by those factors.  If you happen to switch to a much more hazardous job, or participate in a dangerous or extreme sport, like sky diving, there is the possibility that such risks will not be covered in the policy.  Likewise, with Facebook, if you choose to opt into a third party app that is found to have a virus or is involved in identity theft, then you, who opted into that third party app are responsible for the leak, and the assurance is something that Facebook could not possibly cover because Facebook is responsible for what Facebook itself says it can assure about privacy.  They are not responsible for the third parties unless they indeed do assure the quality of the third party in question.  And even there, if you yourself click on that third party and opt into the app, you have made yourself responsible by opting in.

If you don't want to be responsible for the security risk, then don't opt in and report suspicious ads and third party apps.  This is the very advice that Facebook itself gives in a blog shown here.  So be proactive in the security of your privacy.  Be informed, not merely by privacy groups who seem to have an agenda beyond just concern for your privacy, but also find an official voice from Facebook and the third party app you are interested in.  DO YOUR RESEARCH!  If you do that, regardless if it's an app, an ad, or any other sort of business, then you will have a greater assurance than even Facebook can give you.


  1. Mmm yeah like many "concerned" groups the privacy lobby tend to be hysterical at times. I don't know what the fuss is about, personally. Privacy goes as far as you want it to. Anyone with the skillz can hack your password or account, or con you into giving that info away if you're not aware enough, so why stress?
    Whats more, if you use your full name on Facebook people can find you. If you want total privacy create an entire alternate identity...even then, if you post something on more than one site with both identities, it'll show up in a search and people can find you...and this is regardless of 3rd party apps on some social networking site.
    Its called Google.
    And seems there's a trend in the US and other developed countries...seems they don't have anything better to do with their time than worry over "privacy issues" on an abstract virtual electronic network 74.4% of the world doesn't have access to, or contemplate the next toy Apple is going to release...a bit out of touch with whats going on in the Real World, don't you think?
    Apple is eeeevil...Apple is a cult. We must destroy the Apple. Steve Jobs is the Great Satan...we must purge and cleanse the world of his filth!

  2. Indeed. The main reason, above all, is money. I just got a pamphlet in the mail that said that fraud is responsible for some number in the billions of loss of dollars. Yet, in perspective, US senators are responsible for trillions of dollars being put into all sorts of policies that people still don't know what to make of.

    The reality? People want money. Plain and simple. If you want to keep your money, don't put it out there. If while in a shop or restaurant in the physical world, and wouldn't leave your wallet or purse out in the open for anyone to see, why in the world would you let your financial information be put into a cookie? Cookies have been around for nearly 15 years at least. Most of us know what they are, or have heard of them. But, many don't really consider the consequences of putting their information out there on the web. And then turn around and cry about being taken for fraud or identity theft? It's like someone who actually does leave their wallet in open sight on the counter in a story and is suddenly shocked that someone had the gall to swipe it. Yet, should that store or restaurant be considered at fault for one's stupidity? I don't think so.

    But yes, much of the developed world is in that Industrial Revolution mode. Just like centuries ago when they arrogantly proclaimed to have learned to control the elements by mere matter of human intellect, the new technological information age of the developed world stumbles with the same sort of sense of pride in what they think they understand of the world. A world they try, but still fail to imitate all that well in virtual worlds and online networks, and a world that, regardless of how far they try to remove themselves from the human element and 'evolve', fail at that too. For what social networks and virtual worlds have really shown is how little progress humanity has made since discovering fire. Sure, we got many more nifty gadgets other than clubs, knives, swords, slingshots, bows, and arrows to play (and grief) with, but human nature really hasn't made much change from the caveman days. In some ways, the caveman was more honest. <.<