Some Limits of Privacy on Facebook

I had a bad feeling about my privacy status on Facebook and it took about an hour to find the privacy setting crevasses, wriggle in, adjust settings, delete some innocent but taggable pictures, and block some advertisers and games that had wedged into my news feed.

My privacy is now somewhat better.  But there are still privacy holes and annoyances that need attention.  When subscribers upload a photo of people, they can offer names for faces in the photo – this is called tagging.  It’s unclear if they tag photos because their own memory needs help to connect a face with a name, or if they want law enforcement, criminals, employers, process servers, or strangers to be able to connect a face with a name.

Making matters worse, Facebook introduced facial recognition that can analyze a photo and offer suggestions on the names of those in the photo.  That exposure explains why “Anonymous” hackers and anarchists wear Guy Fawkes masks.  On Facebook, you can “adjust” the facial recognition setting only as to “Who sees tag suggestions when photos that look like you are uploaded: [Friends |No one].”  Subscribers can’t directly invoke facial recognition, but it’s lurking in the background ready for those with a subpoena in hand, or perhaps to advertisers with a check in hand.  Tagging is a sinister feature worth resisting.  Left unrestrained it will help compile thick dossiers on subscribers or even innocent children.

Facebook strongly opposed a few potential employers who demanded the Facebook passwords of jobseekers.  This scummy behavior is on a par with extortion and should incur an automatic large fine – payable to the jobseeker.

Facebook allows advertisers, authors, games and performers that are “liked” in a subscriber’s profile to take on the attributes of a friend, including putting posts into the subscriber’s news feed.  These annoyances can be remedied, but it takes detective work to discover how to disable them.  It’s unclear if they can “see” your “friend-visible” news feed.  The more difficult decision is what to do with legitimate “friends” who shill for advertisers or partisan causes.

As in many other sites, Facebook sells access to subscriber profile and commercial “like” data but presumably not to posts and photos.  Using care in what subscribers share in their posts, photos, profile, and permission to share with other sites will limit the potential for privacy breaches.

Alan Daley is a retired business man living in Colorado and following public policy from a consumer’s perspective. 

 

 

 

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