It used to be a rule of thumb to not share personal information with a stranger. Nowadays, we practically put a copy of our Driver’s License on our Facebook page. We’ve slowly become accustomed to putting it all out there on the Internet and rarely second guessing it. We’ve contributed so freely to the world of data mining and have adapted to the concept of privacy invasion. Facebook has been 10 steps ahead of us. Between their constant and sly privacy adjustments they’ve slowly and effectively made us believe that it’s okay for them to track our every move.
The New York Times was the first publication to get through my thick head and really inform me what kind of information I’m sharing and subsequently who it’s being shared with. The author, Joe Nocera, an Op-Ed Columnist began by informing readers that Facebook made two major changes in its privacy settings:
- Every users News Feed would be searchable.
- Users had the ability to share content to not only friends, and not only friends-of-friends, but to the entire Facebook world.
I felt comfort in the fact that I was able to at least control the second rule but the fact that anyone could search my news feed was certainly troublesome to me.
We can’t forget that even though Facebook can be a fun source to connect, it does operate as a business. Facebook pretty much tracks your every move, a scary concept for us, but a smart business move on their end. Between sharing information with marketers or turning users information into endorsements, Facebook does a lot with their information behind the scenes.
What do they collect? Facebook has a full page dedicated to inform you in detail. They break it down into eight categories:
- Things you do and information you provide (location of a photo you posted)
- Things others do and information they provide
- Your networks and connections
- Information about payments (including your debit/ credit card number)
- Device Information (including your exact geographic location)
- Information from websites and apps that use our Services
- Information from third-party partners
- Facebook companies
Facebook claims that they then share all of this information they have collected from users “safely.” They break down sharing with third-party partners and customers by the following:
- Advertising, Measurement and Analytics Services (Non-Personally Identifiable Information Only)
- Vendors, service providers and other partners
Although that information seemed to be broken down in plain English, you could then continue to another information filled page that consists simply of “How Ads Work on Facebook”.
Five years ago, in 2010, Facebook developed a program called Open Graph. The program’s purpose was to give marketers “a wealth of information about a Facebook user’s preferences.” A few years later, in 2013, the program expanded its program by turning user information into product endorsements, which are then displayed to their friends. These ads were seen to have a greater effect because it was their “friends” that were suggesting it, not Facebook.
Online identities changed with the demise of MySpace and the rise of Facebook. On MySpace, it was pertinent to have an online alias, but on Facebook, your first and last name is the appropriate way to display yourself. What changed within those five years that made this transformation sudden okay? Is it the fact that Facebook and MySpace were completely different platforms?
A columnist that interviewed Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg commented, “I think Facebook’s whole business model is habituating people to sharing all their information.” I couldn’t agree more. Somehow this program has enticed teenagers and adults to over share.
Nocera explains how other social media sites, such as Twitter, generally display public tweets and information. It seems on that platform, users don’t have an issue with privacy being non-existent. When he was doing research for his Op-Ed piece and contacted Facebook, he got the notion that Facebook felt like they had to compete and make the option to post publically accessible.
Between the advertising costs and making money off of data mining, Facebook specifically has hit the jackpot. As users of these platforms we really only have two choices—to accept the changes or to stop using it. I’d venture that most people accept the changes and adapt. Emerging media leaders should be aware that social media is more then a fun carefree place to connect with friends. We need to realize the value that these platforms have in the Marketing world and also the toll it has on its users.
Tess Lowth, Graduate Student
Master of Arts in Emerging Media
Loyola University Maryland