Facebook privacy worries ahead of IPO

2012-05-15 19:47

New York - About 900 million people like Facebook. But when they realise their private information is being bought and sold, some don't like it so much.

The question of privacy and the use of personal data is a key issue for Facebook as the booming social network prepares to list on Wall Street.

That is because the freewheeling world of social media must give way to a business model of using the personal information on Facebook as a commodity for marketing and advertising.

Some consumer and privacy advocates say Facebook has been too loose with user data, and hope that as a publicly traded company after its initial public offering (IPO), it may change its tune.

Facebook has been "one of the biggest offenders of users' privacy since the beginning", said John Simpson, privacy project director for Consumer Watchdog.

"What they need to understand is that their business ultimately relies on its being trusted by users."

Facebook has been bedevilled by privacy complaints and had its knuckles rapped over the issue by both US and European authorities.

Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg has repeatedly apologised for privacy lapses amid outrage from users over revelations their online activities were visible to a wide audience of advertisers and other users.

Late last year, in a settlement with the US Federal Trade Commission, the social networking giant promised to honour users' privacy preferences and to stop making claims about the security of personal information that are untrue.

That deal settled two-year-old accusations that Facebook, which has over 800 million users, had allowed advertisers access to the community's personal data when users were told it was being kept private.

Light bulbs

Erin Egan, Facebook's chief privacy officer, on Monday unveiled more changes aimed at making it easier to control the use of private data.

"We're adding more examples and detailed explanations to help you understand our policies," Egan said.

"For example, we include additional tips, marked with a light bulb so you can find them easily. We've added new links to our help centre. We created a new section explaining how we use 'cookies' and similar technologies... We also provide more information about how we use data to operate Facebook, to advertise, and to promote safety and security for Facebook users."

The wrath of internet users gelled over privacy issues in 2010 in a "Quit Facebook Day" movement, which claimed over 30 000 internet users had responded to an effort urging people to leave the site.

A Consumer Reports survey released this month found many users of Facebook are unaware of the privacy risks from the massive social network site or fail to take adequate precautions.

The report found nearly 13 million US Facebook users do not use, or are not aware of the site's privacy controls.

An estimated 4.8 million Americans have posted about where they planned to go on a certain day - a potential tip-off to burglars, the report noted.

And it found that 4.7 million have "liked" a Facebook page about health conditions or treatments, details that insurers might use against them.

Facebook innocent

The issues have done little, however, to halt Facebook's expansion, which has seen the network soar to the top of the social media tree.

Another controversy involving Facebook has arisen because of reports that some employers have asked for Facebook passwords before hiring people. This has incensed some lawmakers.

Facebook says it is not to blame for this or other abuses of its policies.

"Our efforts to protect the information that our users have chosen to share using Facebook may be unsuccessful due to the actions of third parties, software bugs or other technical malfunctions, employee error or malfeasance, or other factors," the company said in a regulatory filing.

"In addition, third parties may attempt to fraudulently induce employees or users to disclose information in order to gain access to our data or our users' data. If any of these events occur, our users' information could be accessed or disclosed improperly."

Simpson said that as a result of the IPO, "all of their practices are going to be under much closer scrutiny, and that's a good thing. It may make ultimately make them more accountable and responsible".

Read more on:    facebook  |  mark zuckerberg  |  us  |  social media
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
3 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
 

Zuma: Pray for peaceful polls

President Jacob Zuma has asked members of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God to pray for peaceful elections on 7 May.

 
 

Latest elections multimedia

Why Jack Parow wants you to vote on 7 May
The ad the SABC doesn't want to air
Elections 2014 in one cartoon
This year's election posters
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Friday Grabouw - 11:32 AM
    Road name: N2 Eastbound
    DELAYS between Sir Lowrys Pass and Grabouw
  • Friday Cape Town - 10:14 AM
    Road name: M3 Inbound
    EVENT - left lane closed between Rhodes Avenue and UCT
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as kalahari.com’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

BlackBerry Curve 3G 9300

Keep it together Text. Email. Social. With all the different ways to...

From R1399.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You may find yourself putting in that extra effort on looking good and making an impression. ...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.