About Facebook and Privacy

This post is a response to a ZDNet article on proposed changes in privacy settings on Facebook, which will basically allow Facebook to proactively share user data with 'pre-approved' third party websites. Put in plain English, this means that they could potentially share your user data without your explicit consent.

I wanted to share about the comments that I saw on ZDnet coming as a reaction to this post. Basically, an older generation of facebook users felt that they would deactivate their accounts, because they are sensitive about privacy in a way the newer generation is not. Others counter-argued saying that the younger generation is smarter and even more sensitive about privacy and security and user control.

Which perspective is true? If you are over 30, and gainfully employed, do you really want anyone (even an anonymous third party site) to know how many hours you spent playing Farmville,  that you believe in God and Fortune Cookies and various other sundry details? And if you are 21, is it OK to do these things anyway, 'cos at your age it's OK to do extreme things?

My take is that privacy and social networking are incompatible, even contradictory concepts; would you expect to be private at an office or college party? Then why expect privacy on a site which serves a similar purpose? Further, when you are using a 'free' service, you are fair game for them to make some money from you. How else would you expect sites like FB to monetize themselves, survive and grow?

So, the bottomline is - use social networking sites wisely, share as little or as much about yourself as you feel comfortable - and always expect that what you share is in the public domain. If you are responsible about your own privacy, no one else can abuse it.


  1. This was one of the reasons i was wary about Facebook in the beginning. So I was inactive, but i guess time & peer activity is what got me in. Everyone was on it - all the time. Like you said, privacy is a term that's extremely relative- each to his own.

  2. Privacy is something sacred and one does not realise often that once you hit the button, phew! the whole world takes charge of the message. Secretiveness is different from privacy and my own feeling is that the younger (est) generations should be taught to guard their privacy well. A relative term, no doubt, but I guess the heart knows what is 'Aham' and what is 'Puram' (pardon me for borrowing these perfect terms from Tamil Sangham Aesthetics.

  3. Aswin, so true about the distinction between secrecy and privacy. As a researcher, I speak to youngsters who hate the idea of adding their parents or teachers on Facebook(secrecy or privacy?) But they may not yet understand that it is wise not to vent frustrations against workplace, or particular people in writing on the Net. Because sooner or later, someone may unearth it, a potential employer may form an opinion based on it. Social networking media has given all of us a public voice/pen and it is upto us to use it responsibly.
    Thanks for your comment,


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