Online data privacy is an ongoing debate and while most of the world’s leading online portals and social networks are struggling to set up proper policies and security measures to protect the interests of their users, there is always potential for disaster. Nevertheless, social websites they are becoming more responsible when it comes to dealing with your data; that you have so willingly and un-regrettably uploaded, posted, tagged, shared and let others subscribe to.
You could be a single mom suing Facebook for exposing your 11 year daughter to sexual predators and paedophiles on the network, but a lot depends on you protecting yourself and your family, from such security issues. Here are a few things that you should know Facebook knows about you:
1. Location: With the arrival of features like Facebook ‘Places’ you are giving away your location to Facebook without much effort but otherwise all your mobile uploads also carry your coordinates and other information right down to the handset model you are using.
2. Messages (even the deleted ones): All your personal messages and chat logs are getting stored somewhere on the Facebook cloud and can be accessed by developers, marketers and even governments. You think it is not serious? Well considering the reports from PRC, all your messages stay on Facebook’s system even when you think that you have deleted them. Maybe it’s time you start thinking before you type.
3. Personal information(even of your friend’s): Whenever you agree to install a Facebook app or a quiz, you are giving the developers of that app or quiz, access to all your personal information . Beyond that, you are also letting those developers view private details of all your friends. Even the ones who trust you enough, to give you complete access to their profiles. This includes everything from education, relationships, preferences, groups they are members of and most importantly – photos. According to ACLU reports, not only does Facebook not deny this but it does nothing to check the legitimacy of these developers. An app developer can use standard API settings to pull information from your profile and they don’t even need to comply with privacy policies. On top of all that Facebook can change its security policies at anytime causing your private data settings to become public.
4. Behaviour Pattern: Many a times you might feel that the ads that are being served to you on Facebook are creepily suggestive of what you usually search or talk about. That in fact is not an undisclosed bit of information. Facebook data-use policy (last updated on 23rd Sep 2011) clearly states how your profile information is accessed every time you log in, share updates, enter your location and even when you sign in to any website through Facebook sign up and use the ‘Like’ button. Facebook does not deny that this information is privy to marketers. All this populates a marketer’s graph as to when you are going to be online, where you usually are, who you will be chatting with and what all you will be talking about or looking for. The beauty of it is that Facebook says it does not share your information unless you permit it to. Yet, how many of us have actually clicked on the ‘allow’ button on an annoying pop-up?
5. External Threats: Ever heard of Phishing? When a Hacker/Spammer creates a fake Facebook Login page (which might look exactly the same) and you for instance end up entering your username and password (How many times do you actually check the URL when you are signing into Facebook?). Once being phished, your profile can start acting in any manner the hacker may fancy. Right from sending spam promotion offers to abusive content. Beyond this your system can be a host to ‘Supercookies’. ‘Cookies’ are little dollops of code being dumped on your computer when you open a website or app. These cookies stay on your system and keep sending your hardware and software data to ‘God knows who?’ (Largely developers and marketers). This stops only when you delete them by going to internet settings on your browser or when the cookies expire themselves. ‘Supercookies’ or tracking cookies are even harder to get rid of and require a third party tool like an Anti-virus that can remove them or block them, but you can’t be certain about that. Next up is a ‘fingerprint’, similar to cookies but nigh ‘deletable’ neither will they ever expire. That’s just a picture of the future.
Some useful links you should visit if you are a Facebook user:
a. Family Safety Centre (Protect your and your families’s privacy on Facebook)
b. Know more about Phishing (Phishing and Clickjacking explained)
c. Facebook Security page (know more about threats and bugs. you can also report glitches on Facebook and earn a ‘White Hat’)
d. Facebook Site Governance (Like this page to keep yourself updated on any policy changes made by Facebook)
e. Data use policy (Read the full Data use policy of Facebook)
f. Download your Information (Download all the data you have uploaded on facebook untill now)
Written by Koustubh Bhattacharya for Image Management