Saturday, 21 February 2009

Facebook and what they know...

So, you've signed up to some sort of web social networking thingy? Apparently lots of people have.

Well, what about your content? What about your privacy settings? Can anyone find you, or do you restrict what people can find out about you?

The whole Facebook row which has been in the news is a good example of where this is contentious when changes start to be made.

If you didn't follow the story, basically Facebook decided that they wanted to change their "terms of service" (that's the bit that you didn't read before you ticked the box and hit the I Agree button, OK?) to allow them to claim "ownership" over all the content members put on the site. This BBC story kind of explains it. They then had to back down because lots of people decided they thought this was a Bad Thing - as summarised by the BBC again.

Hmm, please read them carefully? All 6,839 words?! (yes, I counted them...)

All very well - the change of heart is "temporary" and maybe the original plan wasn't actually to claim ownership either, although that's how it hit the headlines which would have put some users off at least.

What is interesting is that all this "new" social networking stuff is basically giving people a free reign over what they put online. The problem with putting content online is that you then lose some element of control over it before you start. Need an example? Ever taken a photo from a website? Or copied some text? Or accessed a friend's profile? (or, more interestingly, an enemy's?!!).

Losing control isn't necessarily a bad thing, so long as you control what you lose control of. Do I mind if the details I put on this blog are in the public domain? No, not really - I've limited what I've put in the profile that goes with it deliberately so that it doesn't matter.

But here's a thing - seems lots of people don't change security settings or have any idea what ticking the box and hitting the I Agree button allows someone else to do:

It is likely though that until the row over Facebook's Terms and Conditions went public, few people knew what rights sites claim over the content that their members upload and share.

"Less than 25% of users are making a specific point of going to the privacy settings and making changes," said Simon Davies, head of digital rights group Privacy International.

From: Whose data is it anyway? (BBC, 20/2/09)
Does this matter? Should people care what companies do with their details or who can access them? What information about you is there online that in 10 years time might come back to haunt you?

Or, for that matter, about me...

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