Facebook has taken a lot of flak over the years for its ever-changing privacy and security policies. The popular social network originated as a way for college kids to connect. As the website grew and accumulated millions of users—and advertisers—developers had an opportunity to expand its original capabilities.
Changes aren’t widely accepted by users. Typically, when Facebook unveils an overhaul of its security policies or news feed layout, users take to their status updates to voice their disgust and distrust. Still, they continue to remain loyal and active users. Whether this is due to habit or the fact that many friends and relatives are easy to contact through Facebook, it’s not likely that the company will see a drastic decrease in active users anytime soon. In fact, most major changes are generally accepted after an acclimation period.
Some of the changes Facebook has implemented may increase security risks to users, at least in theory. At one time, Facebook elected to share certain characteristics with advertisers in order to provide more targeted advertising, thus increasing advertising rates and company revenue.
Don’t Share My Personal Data!
Users were clearly unhappy with the idea that their private information could be shared with advertisers. Many Facebook users spread the news like a virus, advising friends and contacts to update their privacy settings to prevent the company from utilizing uploaded images for use in advertisements. Further, most users have opted to withhold their personal information, including place of employment, birthdate, email address, phone number and photos from view by any person not approved as a contact by the user.
According to AllFacebook.com, one-fifth of all Facebook employees are dedicated to handling and preventing security issues. It’s important to have a strong defense system in place due to the vast amount of private information shared readily by many users with friends and acquaintances.
Facebook’s New Ticker Fails To Please Users
One of Facebook’s more recent updates includes a revamped news ticker, which sits in the upper right portion of the screen. Users criticized the change immediately, pointing out that everything they do appears in their friend’s tickers, including activity on non-mutual contact’s pages. While this change doesn’t necessarily pose an added security risk to users, many were unhappy with the idea that Facebook was publishing their every online move.
The Facebook Timeline, rolled out at about the same time in Beta version, poses a larger risk by creating a timeline of a user’s life—from birth. Personal information is more likely to appear here, such as birth date, place of birth, year of high school graduation and other data that potentially provides hackers with the necessary information to breach an online account, whether on Facebook or elsewhere.
Even more upsetting to users, according to HP’s Input/Output blog, is the comforting fact that Facebook, using its API and browser cookies, continues to track your every move around the web, even when a user is logged out of Facebook. Naturally, most people prefer to exert some level of control over what information is shared publicly with their hundreds of Facebook contacts.
Facebook Is A Hacker’s Paradise
Most troubling is the idea that Facebook’s explosive growth has made it a hacker’s paradise. A successful security breach could reap a literal goldmine in millions of users’ personal information.
That aside, Facebook’s constantly-changing privacy settings and updates make it difficult for many users to stay on top of protecting their own data. Our advice? If you use the social network, keep abreast of changes to format, timeline and privacy, and educate yourself on how to protect your data from non-contacts.