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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

It looks like the word privacy is no longer an accepted practice or belief for the 350 million users of the most popular social networking Web site in the world, Facebook.

As a student, I enjoy using Face book. I post status messages on the most mundane of things at times, make fun of my friend’s pictures and play the no-brainer games most of the time. I know what information I have made available online (and so do you, if you have read the last few posts) and I generally do not fuss about online security threats.

However, what I find unacceptable is how Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, in an all assuming way said that privacy is disappearing in the new digital age (he begins to discuss privacy at around the 2:45 mark in the video below).

“The rise of social networking online means that people no longer have an expectation of privacy," he said at the Crunchie Awards in San Francisco back in January. "People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people. That social norm is just something that has evolved over time”.

Privacy control and Facebook have never really gotten along well. It all started with “Facebook Beacon” in 2008, a feature that would allow users to share their information about actions taken on third-party Web sites about activities such as buying movie tickets and games. This did not go well with everybody and Facebook landed up having to pay $9.5 million to set up a fund for a non-profit organization that would work to improve and enhance online security and privacy. 

On February 26, 2009, Facebook decided to embrace an “open governance format," which would give Facebook users to vote about any changes with respect to the site’s terms of service. In the same year, when Facebook decided to alter the settings of millions of users, which would give it a complete control over all the content users shared, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) raised its voice, and opined that it would lodge a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

The Canadian government also determined that Facebook had flouted some Canadian privacy laws and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada suggested several recommendations that Facebook had to implement to come back to the right side of the law. Facebook had to make some major changes with regard to providing information to users about the status of their information when they choose to delete or de-activate their accounts and also had to assure them of protection of their information against third-party mining. 

The December 2009 privacy changes by far remain the most controversial. Users were encouraged to share more information with others and some aspects of their profile such as fan pages, networks, profile picture and gender could be accessed by everybody. Several organizations such as Electronic Frontier Foundation  have criticized these changes. Till date, there is a waging war between Facebook and privacy organizations.

Mr. Zuckerberg, make no mistake of the fact that we, as a younger generation, love your Web site. We have put in countless hours of our lives on your site. We have connected to friends we thought we had lost for life, shared our life’s memories and events with all our loved ones and voiced our opinions too - all using Facebook.

However, when you  say that we could not care less about privacy and about having less control of our information, you couldn’t be more wrong.


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