Privacy facing extinction on social media

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By Tiffanie Reynolds |

As Facebook announced its new Graph Search in January, questions have come up about the company’s respect for privacy and user data. But the bigger question with social media, and not just Facebook, is if there is such a thing as privacy at all?

As of last year, 63 percent of Facebook users deleted people from their profile, 44 percent have deleted unwanted comments on their profile and 37 percent have un-tagged themselves in pictures, according to the Pew Research Center.Fifty-eight percent of users also set their profile to private, with women keeping a more restrictive presence online than men. These percentages, higher than the results of the same poll taken in 2009, means that more users are taking care to manage their presence online.

But tweaking with privacy settings may not be enough.

With the newly introduced Graph Search, Facebook is making their site more transparent by allowing users to search other people’s profiles and pictures based on the keywords used. The purpose of this search is for users to connect to more people based on common interests and “likes.” Facebook also reassured that privacy will be kept, based on the privacy settings of the user’s profile.

“One of the things about Facebook is that you have control over what you post, but you do not have control over what other people post. They set it up so you can request that photos be taken down and all of that, but you don’t have total control, and you never will,” said Mandi Frishman, marketing manager of Make Me Social, a company in St. Augustine that helps provide a social media presence for businesses.

As marketing manager, she helps businesses set up their own social media presence with that rule in mind. Her biggest focus is giving businesses the power to expand and maintain their reach to costumers online, as well as help them maintain social media etiquette through social media policies. These policies cover what employees can respond to and how on their company’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

Through this education and etiquette of businesses, Frishman also believes that this same education should be expanded to individuals. She says that, at the core, Facebook is a business, and they will find any way they can to make money, even if it means using people’s profile data to give them more relevant ads.

“I think that people have to expect — and I know that my perspective is a little different because I’m doing this as a job, as a business function — but you put in your information and you know what’s in there, and you have the ability to put it in or to not put it in. The issue I think is more about communication and education, and that the platform is not always doing a great job of helping people understand how their information is being collected and shared, or what control they have over it,” said Frishman.

Since 2009, the first time Facebook made changes to their Privacy Policy, the default settings of users privacy include their name, pictures, gender, friends, wall posts and “likes” as searchable on the Internet.

But it’s not only businesses that can have users information. It’s employers and law enforcement, too. Law enforcement, as well as the FBI, are using subpoenas to gain access to Twitter accounts. Courts have even upheld the right for the FBI to get access via the friends mechanism on Facebook.

“It could be that they’re investigating a crime. It could be that they’re investigating witnesses. And, even within the defense bar, you see people trying to get Facebook accounts to use to impeach a witness,” said Elizabeth White, a criminal defense, civil rights and appeals lawyer at Sheppard, White and Kachergus in Jacksonville.

Florida does not even have protection against employers asking for employee’s username and passwords to their Facebook profile, according to White. Last year, there was an attempt to make this information more private in the workplace with the Password Protection Act, but the bill died in committee.

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