The myth of 'private social networking'

Facebook continues to collect flak in the tech world. This Gizmodo article by Dan Yoder offers some compelling reasons why we should get off Facebook while as raising some disturbing questions about the confidentiality of our data.

For instance, he points out that FB offers access to your private data to all applications and their developers both big and small. You might trust FB but can you trust the application developers to keep your data securely?? Or the fact that it is very hard to delete a FB account and they try to hang on to your information.

I had posted last month about Facebook and privacy. My stand on the issue has not changed. I believe social networking sites are important and powerful tools to re-connect and network, both professionally and personally. I need to use them, and that's a practical decision. But undoubtedly we all need to become smarter and shrewder in using them.

One practical thing that I take out from Dan's article is to keep your FB profile trim, to avoid using apps (hey, I know they are the most fun part of FB but are they really necessary?), and of course, to not post your phone number and email in your profile.

And Facebook is not the only culprit. Have you read  the terms of use on YouTube? I quote the paragraph

10. Rights you licence

10.1 When you upload or post a User Submission to YouTube, you grant:
  1. to YouTube, a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, transferable licence (with right to sub-licence) to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display, and perform that User Submission in connection with the provision of the Services and otherwise in connection with the provision of the Website and YouTube's business, including without limitation for promoting and redistributing part or all of the Website (and derivative works thereof) in any media formats and through any media channels;
  2. to each user of the Website, a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, licence to access your User Submissions through the Website, and to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display and perform such User Submissions to the extent permitted by the functionality of the Website and under these Terms.
(YouTube does clarify that once you delete your account, they no longer have rights over your material)

Also, I want to cut a break for free sites that offer us so much functionality and make such a difference in our lives. Server bandwith costs money. FB went into the black only last year. Wikipedia reports that in March 2008, YouTube's bandwith cost was estimated at USD 1 million a day. How do these guys make money?
I could take a stance that it's none of my business. But when I enjoy the benefits of using the site for free, I don't want to shrug my shoulders. If they want to make some money off my presence on the site, that's fine with me. I can still control how much they know about me.

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