Changes in Facebook's privacy policy are complex
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Real Estate News and Notes

Online Privacy Concerns


The new Facebook Privacy Policy is 5,830 words long.  Yikes!  The United States Constitution, without any of its amendments, is 4,543 words.

You may or may not be using Facebook – but no doubt you are aware of it.  It seems like it’s everywhere and in previous newsletters we’ve written about creating profiles and fan pages.

Currently Facebook is going through dramatic changes regarding privacy that everyone should also be aware of.  Recently the company has revised its privacy policy to require users to opt out if they wish to keep information private, making most of that information public by default. Some personal data is now being shared with third-party web sites.

In most cases, especially among casual web-users, people are simply unaware of just how much of their private information is being shared publically.

Facebook Privacy PolicyAs a result, Facebook has come under a severed (and deserved) scrutiny from privacy groups, the government and most importantly its own users, who complain that the new policy is perplexing and the new opt-out settings time-consuming and extremely confusing to figure out and use.

For example, to opt out of full disclosure of most information, it is necessary to click through more than 50 privacy buttons, which then require choosing among a total of more than 170 options!

Users must decide if they want only friends, friends of friends, everyone on Facebook, or a customized list of people to see things like their birthdays or their most recent photos. To keep information as private as possible, users must select “only friends” or “only me” from the pull-down options for all the choices in the privacy settings, and must uncheck boxes that say information will be shared across the web.

It is important to clearly understand what “sharing all information across the web” really means.

Google Admits to Collecting Personal Data

In a separate yet related story, Google announced that it has been inadvertently collecting snippets of private information that people send over unencrypted wireless networks.  For the past three years, while creating Street View (which is found in Google Maps) the company was also collecting snippets of information that was being transmitted over nonpassword protected networks that Google camera cars were passing. 

In a blog post Google blamed the data collection on a programming error traced back to 2006.  This occurred in the US, Europe and large cities elsewhere.

Although Google denies ever using the information in any of their products, the actions of Facebook and Google make it clear that you need to protect yourself online.  You can never be too careful. 



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