This guest post is contributed by Shannon Wills, she writes on the topic of Internet Service Providers . She welcomes your comments via email.
It’s an issue that’s dominating headlines on the web these days; it’s raking up the muck in the world of social media; even so, Facebook doesn’t seem to be bothered about all the controversy that its privacy issues (or lack of it) is generating. Just a few months ago, we were shocked at how private email messages sent within Facebook were sent to the wrong recipient; now it’s the turn of private chat messages and friend requests to be visible to your friends, if you knew how to make the right tweaks.
Of course Facebook fixed these security holes in a matter of hours, but the question we need to ask ourselves is – If this could happen twice over a period of three months, how many more security lapses can we expect in the future? How many of these will go unreported and stay unfixed? And even if they are reported and fixed, how many thousands of lives would have been affected in the interim?
The problem with social networks is that they allow other people control over your life. Of course, most problems arise because people are not careful about what they post online or because they leave their pages open for all and sundry to access. But then, what if you’re discreet about your postings, information and photos and have all your privacy settings in place so that only the people you allow access can see your page and all that is on it? Does that mean you’re automatically safe? Apparently not, because Facebook has this autonomous policy of revamping its privacy controls every now and then, and information that you had set as private is now open to the public by default. If you want privacy, you’re forced to go into the settings and change them again.
For example, the latest revamp allowed Facebook users to show up on public search listings even though they wanted to be visible only to their friends. And since there was no real intimation sent out (Facebook did send out vague emails about the new policies, but even these were hidden in a folder called Updates in your Messages. Not many people would bother to check this area because it does not show up in your Notifications. And as a result, what you assumed was private was now part of the public domain.
For the net savvy user, this is a minor irritant because they’re aware of all the latest security issues and they take care of the necessary fixes immediately. But for the average user, it’s a disaster waiting to happen if the wrong people gain access to information on their profile – relationships could be ruined, jobs lost, and feelings hurt in the process.
But no, Facebook does not care that most its users are not savvy enough to figure out that they have to opt out of certain privacy options, and no amount of protests or criticism is going to stop this giant of a social network from rolling on to boost its visibility on and dominance of the web. The only thing that could possibly help is the mass exodus of many of its users, but then, we’re an addicted lot – we may complain every now and then, but like any normal human being, we resign ourselves to the situation and go on to posting the next status update or comment, and privacy issues are relegated to a corner of the mind.