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News And Views

News & Views

  • 21 November 2016
  • Ben Taylor

The private side of social: should you be worried about Facebook’s privacy policy?

Over the past few weeks, Facebook has faced two fresh challenges over its privacy policy. For those who follow this sort of news regularly, this is nothing new – we’ve all at some point seen an article pop up in our newsfeed, shared by one of our Facebook friends, with a headline that might as well read, “FACEBOOK HAS CHANGED ITS PRIVACY SETTINGS AND NOW THE WHOLE WORLD CAN SEE THOSE CRINGEWORTHY STATUS UPDATES YOU POSTED IN 2007”. If you’re like me, you probably roll your eyes and scroll down in search of more cat GIFs.

But, with social media becoming increasingly brand-friendly, and with everyone from your grandmother to your dog now having their own Facebook profile, is it time to be seriously worried about how your personal information is being handled?

Two weeks ago, insurance firm Admiral announced that it was introducing a new service via Facebook, where users can offer up their personal information and activity history in the hope that the way they use social media convinces insurers they’re a safe driver. Admiral claimed this was to “help make sure safe drivers aren't penalised and get the best price possible”. It definitely wasn’t aimed at using the fact that you once posted a rant about slow drivers to justify upping your premium.

Just as the internet warmed up for another lengthy debate over the platform’s privacy policy, Facebook stepped in and heroically rebuffed Admiral’s proposal. They may be the world’s fifth biggest brand, but they’ve still got your back! Go, Facebook! However, the reality is that ideas like Admiral’s offer Facebook a wonderful opportunity to make a very public demonstration of their stance on privacy. Meanwhile, in the background, they are arranging for all your WhatsApp details to be shared with Facebook – and vice versa. Facebook bought WhatsApp for a cool $19 billion in 2014, and Mark Zuckerberg quickly pledged to keep the messaging app independent. That plan appears to have changed…

Since concerns over the sharing of data between Facebook and WhatsApp escalated earlier this year, commissions have probed into the partnership and what it means for users. Last week, Facebook was forced to pause the sharing of data between the two platforms. In a matter of days, Facebook acted as the heroic protector of online privacy - and quickly thereafter became the humbled enemy of it.

So, should you be worried? Perhaps. You should certainly be careful about what you post on social networks, but that’s the case for pretty much the entire internet. It’s also important to realise that the sharing of information is part of what makes your experience on social media so dynamic.

It’s what allows Facebook to suggest pages or groups based on your interests, and little-known events local to you; and it lets you create profiles on apps with the single click of an ‘allow’ button. You might want to just go back and delete those embarrassing status updates from 2007, though…

Facebook Privacy