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Facebook Threats to Privacy

Facebook Threats to Privacy

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Published by JP Wang

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Published by: JP Wang on Mar 07, 2008
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05/25/2012

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Threat

Other users can upload and associate information to one’s Facebook account. The most prominent

feature of this type is the “My Photos” feature, which allows users to upload photos and tag them

with the names of the people in the pictures. This functionality has already resulted in trouble for

an underage student at University of Missouri-Columbia when college administrators found a picture

of her duct-taped to a chair while another student poured beer in her mouth. This was a matter of

considerable embarassment as she had just been elected student body vice president. The university

is currently considering removing her from that role.

Current Facebook Precaution

Facebook allows users to de-associate themselves from unwanted data, but in the case of pho

tographs, the data remains on the server. This is also an “opt-in” function that requires constant

monitoring of the system.

third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary: (1) to conform to legal requirements or to respond to a

subpoena, search warrant or other legal process received by MySpace.com, whether or not a response is required by

applicable law; (2) to enforce the MySpace.com Terms of Use Agreement or to protect our rights; or (3) to protect

the safety of members of the public and users of the service.”

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Recommendation to Facebook: Better Restrictions on Third-Party Information Third par

ties’ ability to submit and associate information about users violates one of the key principles of

information practices: the idea that users should have the ability to control and correct the informa

tion about them in a particular database. Although Facebook allows users to delete Wall postings

and de-associate themselves with photographs, this is an “opt-in” mechanism that requires constant

monitoring. Modifying the “My Privacy” feature to allow a blanket disabling of these features for

a particular user would help users control their information.

Recommendation to Users: Exercise Caution Users should be aware that there are effectively

no access controls on pictures, and that they should only upload the pictures that they would feel

comfortable having anybody on the Facebook viewing.

In addition, realize that the photos that you upload of other people may be viewed by their high

school friends or their family. Don’t post anything of them doing anything that you wouldn’t want

your parents to see you doing.

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