Friday, June 3, 2011

Why Facebook Gets Bad Reputation For User Data Privacy

If you are a long time Facebook user, you'll remember Facebook's humble beginning as college student network. Facebook used to operate around the networks that you belong to. Facebook user could choose school network, work network, even regional network to share private information.

To most of you all these network-centric sharing would be distant memory. And so it was with me. I have long forgotten this network-centric sharing past of Facebook, and even the fact that I entered my network as FaceTime Communications (Actiance used to be known as FaceTime Communications).

Voila, my FaceTime past on Facebook;
Removing it was not as simple as clicking on 'edit'
Only memento of FaceTime for me was my Facebook profile info page displaying my network as FaceTime Communications. Although we've gotten free publicities from Apple's iPhone FaceTime launch, I didn't want to send wrong signal that I'm anyway affiliated with Apple.

So I began my search around Facebook profile edit page to remove this piece of my history from Facebook.

First I did what a normal user would do. Click on the 'edit' link shown next to the Networks shown on profile info page. Hmm... no luck. It directed me to basic information page where current location, hometown, gender, birthday, sexual orientation, language, and free text area for short bio.

Well, link must have been misplaced. Then I started searching through all profile edit pages: Profile picture, featured people, education and work, philosophy, etc., etc...

Network is not your profile, but it's your account setting;
How intuitive is that?  Not very...
To my bewilderment none had network edit capability. Ok, time to take out a big gun. I googled for "facebook network edit", and there I found it. It turned out that network edit was available under networks tab of account settings page.

Who would have thought? I'm sure Facebook is not intentionally making it more difficult to edit or delete personal information. But it sure feels like Facebook is not really valuing the user's time and their data. They could have spend a few minutes to link 'edit' next to networks on profile info page to correct spot. Instead they are making user search for ways to edit their *own* information.

Note to Facebook users: be careful what you enter in Facebook. You might not be able to readily find an edit button to remove information you entered.

I'm sure there are other examples like these from Facebook. How well do you think Facebook is handling our private data? Please chime in.


  1. As we go about our lives, each of us creates and manages personal digital data about our online and real-world activities. Horizon Digital Economy Research is an RCUK research hub investigating the many different challenges surrounding collection and exploitation of these personal contextual footprints.

  2. I think it is not the social network that is responsible in spilling out one's privacy. I think Facebook users must always be discrete in sharing private information about themselves.

  3. Thank you for comments @contemporary metal wall art & @plumbing supplies.

    Challenge with Facebook is user education. Not many understand the ramification of sharing their personal data, especially on digital media where it can remain practically forever.

  4. Facebook showed the way by creating a bad reputation with their poor privacy models, Twitters openness to third party application and many more.. All things aside, there is one question nagging in my head all along.