Unless you have just finished making the journey down from Mount Everest or have been vacationing on a deserted tropical island, you already know about the privacy disaster called Facebook. The company’s stock has taken a serious hit in price, Mark Zuckerberg has been called before Congress, and more than a few users are fleeing to Instagram or other social media outlets. Despite all this bad news, experts expect Facebook to hold on to the lion’s share of its current users for two reasons – 1) users expected their data to be sold and 2) there is no other good alternative to Facebook at the moment.
So if you are one of those who is staying loyal, either by force or by choice, here are some things you need to know about the changes Facebook has made to its Privacy Settings. Note that there may be more changes to come, so stay tuned.
After seeing its stock price plummet as at least one sign of public discontent of the Cambridge Analytica fiasco, Wednesday, March 28 marked the first day Facebook began giving back more control of their data to users. It is definitely a learning experience for some users, as they discovered there are a total of 20 different places prior to Wednesday where you have to go to change your privacy settings. Twenty. Facebook has now consolidated all 20 into a single page (called the Privacy Shortcuts section) to make access to those settings easier. Currently there is no explanation why they were not on a single page before Wednesday. The company also said it will make clearer how Facebook uses your data, which seems to mean that they weren’t all that interested in this for the last 13 years.
They will work feverishly to create a page that will allow each user to download their ad data to get a better picture of what information has been collected from them. Apparently, only Facebook and perhaps companies like Cambridge Analytica were the only ones to really know what you were giving up – informationally speaking. One interesting aspect of this data disaster is that most people think Facebook is actually free to use. It never was.
Europe has been revising its privacy laws, requiring these “new” easier to understand explanations on what happens to your information, so Facebook had to make some adjustments anyway by the end of April.
Erin Egan, Facebook’s chief privacy officer, said “We’ve heard loud and clear that privacy settings and other important tools are too hard to find, and that we must do more to keep people informed.” The reason that they are hard to find is because the app was designed that way – unless you believe the entire creation of Facebook was a hodgepodge of coders who just threw some code together hoping it would work.
A bit more about the new Privacy Shortcuts section. You will be able to see what you have shared on Facebook – and with whom – and be able to delete the data if you choose. Those ubiquitous ads will now be under your control, so you can choose who you want to share your personal life with. Finally, there is a two factor authentication management area to give you even more control of your information.
Facebook has decided to update its Terms of Service. This part gets a little weird, because while on the one hand the company emphasizes their commitment to people (not data collection) in the same breath they say that “These updates are about transparency — not about gaining new rights to collect, use, or share data.” I don’t know about you, but this is insulting. Does the company really think that after this fiasco they would be letting users know they wanted to grab even more data? Maybe they think we are really stupid or just don’t care anymore about our personal information.
As was said at the beginning, stay tuned for more on the privacy settings issue. Zuckerberg is scheduled to testify before Congress, so after they are done with him we may see even more changes. Most Facebook users remember the days when they believed Facebook would remain forever. Apparently many still do given that the general stock market consensus is that the company will not have to file for Chapter 11 after the data giveaway. Some who have left Facebook have migrated over to Instagram, which is also owned by Facebook. It’s not clear how many of the migrants are aware of this, or whether they really care.
Facebook’s new privacy settings may be the start of a movement that will return a chunk of privacy back to users of not only Facebook, but to all apps that collect personal data (which is most of them). Or it may be too late for anyone to really care anymore about privacy and Facebook will find another way around the law and capitalize on their users’ ignorance. Apple Computer CEO Tom Cook may have said it best when he said that people are not their product. Rage on all you want about how Apple computers are overpriced and elitist, at least they know what they are about. Maybe Facebook has done something with your data that Apple went to court to protect – protecting your privacy by refusing to share your data with the government.