Why you shouldn’t worry about Facebook’s privacy policy

Picture courtesy of alancleaver_2000 on Flickr

Everyone has been up in arms lately over Facebook privacy, but is Facebook to blame?  People put so much information about themselves on Facebook and often get shocked because one little setting was off and all of a sudden you are fired from your job, for something you thought was an innocent rant on Facebook.  As I’m been hiring technicians, I always check to see if they are on Facebook.  I’ve not hired two technicians solely because of what I saw them doing on Facebook.  One was playing mafia wars all day long while he should be working and actually took pictures of some “stupid” things his coworkers did with computers.  The other claimed he left his previous job willingly, but his Facebook complaints proved otherwise.

This weekend many claim they are going to leave Facebook over privacy concerns.  Those people are missing the point.

Even if Facebook privacy were the rock solid iron clad guarantee that some people want, they might be in a worse position than they are today. Like customers who run out of date antivirus/antimalware software, they get lulled into a false sense of security. If they think Facebook is fully protecting their privacy, they may be more willing to share information that could later haunt them. The problem however isn’t with the Facebook website, it’s with those pesky humans that use computers that compromise your privacy and not Facebook.

First, Facebook is a popular place for viruses.  You’ll get some kind of link about being tagged in a picture or a “sexy video” link and click on it, and then the bad guys have your private and confidential Facebook info.  Now the bad guys can modify your privacy and even hold your account for ransom.  Ouch.  All of Facebook’s privacy is now neutralized because a 3rd party has your account info. They’ll use your account to infect your friends–makes for akward conversations for sure at the next get together.

Sometimes it’s not the bad guy half way across the world, but someone you actually let into your home or office.  While people get up in arms over Facebook privacy, they seem to have no trouble handing over their computer to a complete stranger to do with it what they please.  Some tech support companies dispatch a third party technician that possibly only went through a rudimentary reference check.  Many times they won’t even tell you the name of the technician.  Not to pick on Best Buy’s Geek Squad, but they are clearly the best known out there.  Incidents of stealing information and spying on customers are all over the Internet. I know of two onsite tech support companies in Lawrence that hired registered sex offenders.  Both times a customer notified the employer as they either recognized the name or picture from the Kansas Sex Offender Registry.  In one case, the offender was the owner!  The question is “Do you trust the person working on your computer with your confidential information?”  Most people don’t give this a second thought and they really should.  All the privacy policies in the world can’t protect you if you don’t take reasonable steps to know something about the person working on your computer. Obviously our customers trust us and I’m well known in the community having done this for 20 years. My reputation is on the line and I take privacy issues very seriously with my clients.

Sometimes these privacy violations aren’t caused by something as sinister as a rogue technician.  Too often, people leave themselves logged into Facebook and forget about it.  Sometimes it’s at a public terminal at a cybercafe or possibly your iPhone or iPad. Friends and family might taken advantage of your unattended logged in account and post a joke embarrassing picture.  And guess what happens when your boss, fiance, or potential employer sees that.  Oops. That’s not really Facebook’s fault.

Again, your privacy is compromised not by Facebook, but by the person sitting in front of the computer! Cardinal rule is: If you don’t want everyone to see it or know it, then don’t put it on Facebook. If it’s on Facebook, others will see it eventually.

In other words, if you called off work because you were sick, and then post pictures at the baseball game. You are gonna get caught no matter what Facebook’s privacy policy is

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