Thursday, 13 December 2012

Facebook: No 'Likes' for Security and Privacy?

Matt Williams discusses recent changes to Facebook:

Facebook announced on Tuesday that only 660,000 of its 1 billion users responded to proposals by the site to allow changes to be made to the governing of the social networking giant. The primary modifications included; increasing the sharing of data between its services, making the rules regarding who can message users more lax and removing the voting system. These refer to every version of Facebook, including the mobile application.

On the face of it, a turnout of 0.06% is a very small figure. And considering that most of the points that the proposals were setting out are security and privacy related, it begs the immediate question; do Facebook users really care about their account security?

As a young person, who has been studying a security related degree, security and privacy on social networking sites is something that I think about regularly. Who is able to contact me? What details am I giving out? And are my embarrassing photos only being limited to a particular number of people or are they being made public?

So why didn’t I answer? I’ve had a Facebook account for a while now. But my allegiances to social networking sites have now switched. Twitter, the growing threat to Facebook, now occupies most of my networking time, so it seems I’ve deemed Facebook to be second in importance in this department. And with a reduction in its value to me, Facebook’s changes to my account fall to the bottom of my ‘to-do list’.

Speaking to my friends about it, they were saying much of the same. For many of them, Twitter is their new top social networking site, so they’re more interested in the security of that rather than Facebook now. It was too time consuming and a response would have been made if longer had been given to answer were other reasons given also. Some simply didn’t care.

But although the impression gathered from the response to the poll is that the changes involved are not important to users, approximately 90% of the respondents to the proposals were against planned changes. So does this actually mean the opposite? If people actually do care about security, why are they so against the changes? A 0.06% response rate might appear small at first, but considering Facebook’s global popularity, it is in fact a sizeable number of people. After all, online petitions to the UK government are gated at only 100,000 respondents.

In my opinion, people are fed up with data sharing to third parties becoming such a prominent feature of Facebook. Details put on the site by users are in the majority of cases for their friends and only for their friends, not for Facebook and the extended services offered, such as advertising. It could also be that there’s a growing element of mistrust between the users and the online giant. Some feel that they cannot trust the social network and may think the changes are one too many. Users are so worn down that they feel their voices won’t be heard anyway, so just resign themselves in apathy, in the hope that they’ll be able to one day export their photos and friends and finally get out.

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