Facebook’s privacy labyrinth by Xan Pearson @XanPearson

Facebook Privacy

Under intense scrutiny from media and blogs regarding its privacy policy, Facebook has faced a maelstrom of bad public relations in the last few weeks. In my previous post, Social Media Privacy is an Oxymoron, I briefly discussed the concern with Facebook’s convoluted privacy policy and the need for increased regulatory guidelines. While users of social networks need to use discretion when sharing any information, it doesn’t absolve social networking sites from an obligation to properly notify and explain policy changes in a language easily understood by all users.  When a user signs a terms of service agreement, there is a responsibility on the part of both parties.  Facebook, at the very least, should allow users the choice to “opt-in” to an application that will automatically change their personal privacy settings, rather than put the onus on the user to decipher confusing language and an intricate series of clicks to get back to where they were in the first place.

There were two great articles in the New York Times regarding Facebook’s complicated maze to opting-out of “instant personalization”.  This infographic shows the complexity of steps a user must go through to retain original privacy settings and bar 3rd party websites access to information.  Another article,  goes further to explain that after completing the process, a user’s private information may still be revealed. Summary:

  1. A privacy policy longer than the U.S. Constitution.
  2. Users are forced to click over 50 buttons, with 170 additional setting options, to protect information previously set as “private”.
  3. Despite mastering the maze to opt-out, some information is still accessible to outside websites.

Of the 400 million users on Facebook, approximately 52 million are minors. “Instant Personalization” is difficult for any user to decipher, let alone a juvenile. How many of these users will actually take the time to navigate the Facebook privacy labyrinth? What percentage of parents is aware of the new policy and that their children’s personal information will be shared with 3rd party websites?

Takeaway: Just as the user must adhere to a service agreement, social networking sites have a responsibility to explain policies in a manner users, particularly those under the age of 18, can understand and protect established privacy settings.

10 New Privacy Settings Every Facebook User Should Know (G-Rated Version) from Nick O’Neill on Vimeo.

As marketers what responsibility do we have to ensure we are not seen as taking advantage of these kinds of situations, if any? Add your comments!

Meet the author:

Xan Pearson

Xan Pearson

A sports sponsorship marketing and community relations executive for the youth programs of two professional sports teams, Xan has over twenty years of experience in business development, marketing, and sales. Through an impressive and diverse career in business development and marketing within a variety of industries including corporate finance, retail, non-profit, publishing, and sports, Xan has learned that regardless of the industry, there are inherent principles for successful marketing and business development strategies. As a sports sponsorship director, she creates sponsorship brand marketing and experiential promotions for her corporate clients.

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