Facebook : Privacy concerns and control

Everyone loves to share their Facebook postings with others – here I am eating dinner, here I am “checking in” at this location.  We love to share aspects of our lives with others.  WE get to chose who we share it with – or do we?  The history of Facebook and its privacy settings are concerning, to say the least.  Had enough of Facebook and plan on deleting your account – well, you can’t.  You can deactivate it, but you can login and “activate” it at any point.  Once you have been created on Facebook, there is no method for removal. Facebook also knows who your friends are, who your family is, where you work, where you go, what you buy….  That’s an awful lot of information about an individual, which becomes a demographic and then a target audience.  Not only are we being targeted, our information being used in ways that we are not even aware, we are also penalized for our online presence and the posting of our daily lives.

K-12 teachers are being subjected to extreme scrutiny over their postings and behavior as exhibited through their online presence. “Numerous teachers have faced discipline for posting what school officials regard as inappropriate and unprofessional content on social media even though the content was posted during their personal time. School officials have punished teachers for posting content that sets a poor example for their students because it involves sex, drugs, alcohol, or profanity. In other instances, school districts have punished teachers and other school employees for content on social media sites that casts their schools in a negative light. This expression might take the form of negative comments about the school or students or offensive comments about non-school-related topics.”1

As public schools took a hard line with social media, policies and laws were created that prohibit teachers from communicating with their students online or posting anything that may be deemed inappropriate.2

“In the seminal Pickering v. Board of Education case, the Supreme Court held that it’s not a First Amendment violation to dismiss probationary teachers for what they say or write, if their speech involves merely personal things (i.e. doesn’t address broader social/political issues of the day), or if the speech might disturb the workplace.

Tenured teachers, by contrast, have far greater job security than probationary teachers: they can’t be fired except for “just cause,” and they don’t need to rely on the First Amendment for protection.”3

“To date, there have been only three court cases involving teachers who claimed that their First Amendment rights were violated by being punished because of their postings on social networking sites. The teachers lost every case.”4

Employers are also using an online presence to determine whether or not to hire a candidate.  Recruiters friend request potential candidates to check out their profile and help determine if they should be hired.  Think not having a Facebook will save you?  Apparently that is even worse than having a not so great one.5  So what’s going on?

“Facebook was started by Mark Zuckerberg as a social networking site for Harvard undergraduates in 2004.”6  The controversy regarding privacy was almost immediate – in September 2005/06 Facebook “was open to college students and soon to be open to high school students when the “News Feed” is created.  The News Feed is an aggregator of one’s friends postings.  College students were worried that adding others to the Network would make it less secure, while everyone worried about the lack of privacy and control over the News Feed and its “creepy” postings of what one’s friends were doing.”7

Under Facebook terms a user is required to promise:

  • You will not provide any false personal information on Facebook, or create an account for anyone other than yourself without permission.
  • You will not create more than one personal account.

Facebook also offers to import your contacts and email so that it can check and see if any of your “friends” might be on Facebook so that you can “connect” with them.  In addition, you can “tag” yourself and your friends in a location you have visited, or in your exact location.  While the user commits to total trust in Facebook and the handling of private information, Facebook took a more lucrative approach to sharing your data with the roll out of  Beacon, in November of 2007.  “Beacon, the advertising platform, which automatically updated users profiles with their purchases and advertisers information.  The whole project was killed a few years and lawsuits later, but many of the features were adapted for future applications.”8

“McCall v. Facebook, Inc., 2012 U.S. App. LEXIS 19767, No. 10-16380 (9th Cir., Sept. 20, 2012). Over a minority of class members’ objections, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has approved a settlement agreement between Facebook, Inc. and a class of individuals allegedly harmed by Facebook’s breach of various consumer privacy laws. The online social networking company Facebook, Inc. (Facebook) launched a new program called “Beacon” in November 2007. The purported purpose behind Beacon was to allow Facebook’s members to notify their friends what they were doing else-where on the Internet. However, Beacon’s design did not require any active participation in the program; rather, the program was automatically on. Facebook soon was overwhelmed with complaints that Beacon was publicizing the otherwise private Internet activity of its members without their knowledge or approval.Facebook initially altered Beacon to allow its members to “opt out” of the program and, after this change failed to assuage member complaints, it discontinued the program altogether.”9

According to the article, Facebook’s privacy issues are even deeper than we knew, “Questions about what social networks mean for personal privacy and security have been brought to a head by research at Carnegie Mellon University that shows that Facebook has essentially become a worldwide photo identification database.  Paired with related research, we’re looking at the prospect where good, bad and ugly actors will be able identify a face in a crowd and know sensitive personal information about that person.”

Facebook’s assurances of data safety is also not particularly reassuring given the amount of data that is available for others to see despite it being secure, and the amount of data shared for profit with industry by which every click performed by a user has meaning and potential profit.  Navigating the terms of agreement of privacy policy is daunting at best.  The latest news on Facebook and its privacy issues indicate that Facebook is winning the legal battle to do whatever it wants with your likeness as long as you sign up and continue to use.  In all honesty, signing up forfeits your rights since one can never truly delete an account.Below is an account of a Facebook law suit in which despite a settlement against Facebook, Facebook still continued to break the law it was sued for breaking to begin with.  Arrogance or ignorance?

Court Upholds Facebook Settlement, Allows Continued Use of Kids’ Images in Ads : A federal appeals court has upheld a 2013 settlement agreement in Fraley v. Facebook, a consumer privacy class action involving Facebook’s use of young children’s names and images for advertising without consent. That practice is currently prohibited in seven states. Questions were also raised about the cy pres determinations. In dissent, Judge Bea stated that the “district court abused its discretion in approving the final settlement.” In an amicus brief to the Ninth Circuit, EPIC urged the appeals court to overturn the deal, explaining that the settlement is unfair to class members and authorizes continued privacy violations. In 2010, EPIC and a coalition of consumer privacy organizations filed an extensive complaint with the Federal Trade Commission that eventually required Facebook to improve its privacy practices. (Jan. 14, 2016)”10

 What could have been done differently?  In the beginning, users wanted the social media network to remain private, as it was seemingly for college students.  There was a lot of backlash when Facebook went public, but that has not stopped the social media network from being highly successful, with a multitude of apps and programs outside of the Facebook program but runs with and off for an additional user experience.  The idea of a private network is appealing, and while Facebook has allowed for more user ability to manage their own privacy setting, the ability of industry to use data and other relevant information from your profile should be limited and/or denied.  What Facebook is not is pro-user – in the apparent view of Facebook, all content is owned by Facebook and there really isn’t much you can do about it.  They have changed their behavior to some extent by revising privacy policies, but it has done so begrudgingly due to legal ramifications.  There needs to be some more accountability and user control over their own content, even if we are using their software.
Most users are seemingly addicted to the social network, cementing its status as “the timeline” of your life.  Since the Facebook interaction is everywhere, despite the privacy concerns, it being used to gather more and more information about the individual.  The question for this assignment asks what would you do if asked to give your Facebook username and password to a recruiter or to identify your Facebook page.

If you say no, and your username is sugardaddyslacker and your password is demonfromhell666 it could be a potentially awkward situation.  Could you consider not giving it – but then you know that is kissing the potential job goodbye.  Most online sites recommend having a professional Facebook page that reflects your business persona.  Pictures of you drinking, doing drugs or anything illegal should be kept away from the Facebook page – it probably shouldn’t be a part of your lifestyle, but that’s a personal call and one you shouldn’t be posting about.

“Fifty-two percent of employers use social networking sites to research candidates. That figure is up from 43 percent last year and 39 percent in 2013.

If you say, “I don’t have to worry about that. I’m not on social media,” your assumption may be wrong. Thirty-five percent of employers said they were less likely to interview job candidates who didn’t have a digital footprint.”11

One can appreciate both sides of the argument – your private life should be private and what a person posts on social media should not be used to judge them, as things can be taken out of context.  The problem is social media is just that – social.  Everyone sees it, even if you have them in “folders”.  What are potential employers looking for?

  • “60 percent are looking for information that supports their qualifications for the job
  • 56 percent want to see if the candidate has a professional online persona
  • 37 percent want to see what other people are posting about the candidate
  • 21 percent admit they’re looking for reasons not to hire the candidate. “12

“Employers are looking to make sure your digital presence matches what they are seeing in your application or who they are meeting in the interview….You want to enhance your social media to be more of a professional presence than a personal presence.”13

The desire for privacy within social media is almost an oxymoron, but should it be such a difficult expectation that the account created by you should be seen by whom you want it seen and be able to remove permanently ANY data we created.  Facebook has tried to maintain total control of all content and what is done with it since the beginning.  While Facebook’s success has more than likely surpassed any expectation of, the fact it is used as a measure of a person is concerning to say the least.  I do not take my social media seriously.  In all honestly, I should probably respect it more.  I made friends to play online games with, since I refused to pay I was required to “make friends” with people I did not know so we could feed online cows and manage an online mafia.
The hours I spent were mine alone, requesting and pestering friends for water and energy.  I eventually grew bored with it as I had farms in every land and mafias in many countries.  If a recruiter had become my friend, he would have been very bored or tasked with watering my trees.  It would not have made an impressive entry for a job candidate.  What I do in my leisurely time is my business, and I certainly wasn’t doing anything wrong, it wasn’t engaging and it would appear I have no life….which I did…. I just enjoyed feeding online cows and chickens.   But to be judged and denied a job opportunity?  It seems a bit harsh.

So how do you impress?  There are three ways that is considered to help craft a professional online presence:

“Engage in online conversations – For example if there is a Twitter hashtag for a topic in your field, participate…..Join a LinkedIn industry group and become active in the discussions.

Be a content sharer – For example, follow experts and share their information online.

Be a content creator – This may not be as daunting as it seems…..Portions of a class project or a presentation prepared for professional group could serve as good online content”14

While I have not necessarily followed these rules myself, they are a good guide for someone just starting out.  I consider my page part private and work persona.  If I was asked for my username or password on my Facebook I would have to share that information, but with the understanding I would be changing my password to a private password once their “look” into my account was complete.  I suppose that might not go over well.  The landscape is changing and Facebook is being taken more seriously as a marketing tool, being used by political parties, city and towns communicating with residents, and being used as the face of businesses.



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