Heard, and overheard

May 31 2010   12:40AM GMT

Privacy on Facebook : Are your users selling you out?

Anilpatrick Anil Patrick Profile: Anilpatrick

Okay, this is something I had decided never to write about, but recent occurences leave me no choice. It’s about privacy on Facebook, and more importantly about the Quit Facebook movement!

Big deal, right? Yes, almost every second media person has been ranting about privacy on Facebook now, and this post is kind of late to the party.

Before we dwell on the negatives of Facebook, let me clarify the fact that I did stay off it for quite a while. The reason? Well, it was largely about the way anyone’s applications can run on it, to start with.

The worries of some random application going berserk and emailing my entire address book kind of kept me off Facebook. So the excommunication threats of immediate family, friends and colleagues didn’t cut much ice either. Possible privacy issues on Facebook kind of served as the right excuse to offer for the most persistent questioner!

It was around early April that your’s truly finally bit the pill (aka carrot), and succumbed to the magic potions offered by Facebook. The reasoning that set aside issues about privacy on Facebook?

The excuse used was, “If this soul’s been sold to Google (Gmail), why not Facebook as well?” Yes, it’s been a wonderful free lunch so far, even without the produce from Farmville. So we had a wonderful honeymoon, Facebook and me—till chinks started appearing when I started to configure privacy settings on Facebook. 

Reasons?

  • Facebook’s brilliant for digging out old contacts, people you haven’t even thought of, in years. Powers of data mining, anyone? So much for privacy on Facebook.
  • Very intuitive interface for the beginner. It’s only later that you figure out that it needs more tweaking to protect your privacy on Facebook than it does to tune a Yamaha RD 350′s carburettors!
  • Brilliant addictive online games (No, I don’t intend to send any cows or henchmen over to your farm!).

Yes, there’s no free lunch, and your privacy is the price you pay for getting fortune cookies and mafia warfare on Facebook. Your organization is not spared either.

With a majority of India’s organizational IT users being on Facebook, it’s inevitable that your organizational affairs also go out through the site. It might be the way your last Tequila shot drowning offsite sessions went, or the manner in which office gupshup gets posted in the “old boy’s clubs”.

Now, it’s inevitable that people talk. The difference in this case is that besides the inner circles where the nth drink sets tongues loose, this information might become available for anyone who wants to pay for it—with much greater damage—you certainly don’t want your next merger’s details pouring money into the Facebook coffers.

Time to rein in those users with a social networking policy irrespective of whether they quit Facebook today or not, isn’t it?

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