Perhaps your friends have been urging you to get a Facebook account, or you have an account, but not sure how to set your privacy settings and, therefore, are not sure who is seeing that picture of you dancing on the table at the bar during spring break. Or which of your many ‘friends’ may find out that you decided to skip work today and go to the beach. As social networking evolves, and new business models develop, as users, we need to make the right choices on how we protect our identity, either online or off. Here, is a brief summary of social networking’s evolution, some privacy tips, and how social networks use your information.
Social Networks — What we think they do, and what they actually do.
Facebook, started by few Harvard college students, and limited to Harvard class members initially, eventually the founders opened Facebook up to other colleges, then high schools, and then finally to anyone over the age of 13. Facebook’s simple, clean interface design and one size fit all template appeals to more users, than does MySpace. MySpace offers templates and customization for your MySpace site that sometimes, while visually compelling, and are hard to read. Facebook is a free way for friends and family to keep in touch with each other. However, as a free site, the operators are providing you with a service that Alexa.com, a leading web traffic analytics company, reports that, Facebook is the second most visited website globally after Google. In April, at Facebook’s F8 conference, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that over 400 million people signed up with Facebook.
Facebook security tips that will help you protect yourself and your online social networking identity
Stays informed on what Facebook is up to by going to the Facebook page and click the “like” button so you can stay on top of changes that Facebook makes and how those changes affects you. Facebook also has a security page blog as well; go there for security alerts and changes.
Never Accept Default Settings
As Facebook creates new features that allow users to connect easily connect with the world, Facebook sets the default user settings for “Everyone.” Do not accept this setting. First of all, unless you want the whole world to see your information, there is no reason to give the world a look into your personal life.
Make sure you use a password that is unique to Facebook. You can accomplish this by using a specific phrase to remember your Facebook password by, and then, converting that phrase into a string of characters. For example, “FaceBook is for friEnds and famILy,” turns into “FB=4E+IL.” This is one area that you can have fun with and be creative. Also, make sure you change your password every three months, at least.
Trust your friends, slowly
When “friending” someone, don’t give that person full access to your profile, no matter how well you think you know them. The Internet changes people, so you never are sure whom they will show your posts too. Give all friends a trial period, allowing them bits of information a little at a time, earning your trust as you see what they do with your pictures, and posts. You can customize your Facebook settings by clicking in the upper right hand corner under ‘Account’, then click ‘Privacy Settings’, select a Personal Information item from the list on the left to customize, like ‘Photo Albums’ or ‘Allow friends to post on my wall,’ and on the right hand side, select from the privacy-setting button and select ‘Customize.’
Personal Identifiable Information
Credit card information and social security card information are a no-no. For example, perhaps you are chatting on Facebook and a friend, or spouse or someone whom you honestly trust requests your social security number for god knows what reason, don’t do it. The person you gave that information to, may have all the good intentions in the world; however, it is not them, you should worry about… Several security issues arise, the first being, is that person on the other end of the Internet on Facebook actually the person you think it is? Perhaps you ran out to grab a pizza and didn’t log out, your roommate comes by, and sees your Facebook chat is open and decides to impersonate you. Perhaps a hacker is sitting outside your house, or the person you are chatting with, and wirelessly hacking into their system or yours recording your conversation.
Never display your birth year.
Facebook stalkers don’t need to know how old you are. Your real friends should already know. You can customize this setting by going to Account, then select ‘Privacy Settings, then select Birthday and click the button on the right side to customize.
Facebook and finances
Never wire money to any of your Facebook friends who “claim that they were robbed and in need cash to get back from vacation.” An example of this type of fraud is the “Nigerian bank scam,” also known by a few other similar names.
Facebook is about sharing, just not, about when you are going for vacation.
Never tell anyone your vacation plans on Facebook before you go on vacation. Instead, share them after the fact, besides your friends would love to see your Bahamas vacation and drool. Trust me; no one on Facebook is going to neighborhood watch your house for you, without asking them first.
Facebook applications are not about sharing. Although Facebook doesn’t screen new applications, you should be able to get a good idea if the application is legitimate or not by the number of users, and its rating. However, if a Face book application asks you for you Facebook user name and password, don’t give it. The Facebook platform allows third-party developers to connect with relative ease, once you allow the application the permission to connect to your profile. The need for you to re-enter your information is at best suspicious, and at worst malicious.
Who pays for Facebook?
When Facebook started out, the site most likely started with a few file servers and a few database servers. The file-server handles the web pages that you see, and the database server handled user identification (user id), passwords, and each user’s personal data. Each server holds a finite number of pages and users. As the number of users grows the more file and data servers, the provider needs to add to the system to accommodate that growth. Although the price of servers has come down throughout the years, Facebook requires numerous servers to maintain and grow the capacity of the company. So, who pays for those servers? Servers plug into the wall and consume electricity. Who pays for the electricity? All these servers connect together by routers, which in turn, connect into the Internet. Who pays for the Internet connection? Advertisements pay for Facebook, bottom line. Why would companies advertise on Facebooks? As Facebook grew, the founders realized that as the number of people signed into Facebook, represented traffic. In web marketing, traffic is like gold. Traffic represents the number of people who would potentially see your advertisement. Marketing experts know that you need millions of customers looking at your ad before only a small percentage click on the link and even a smaller number convert from surfers to buyers.
GeoIP and target marketing.
I am sure you noticed the ads that say, “Seattle mom looses 145 lbs with this one secret.” A system called GeoIP matches your computer’s IP address to a mapping system that tells the software systems what state or town your computer is in, and then will display advertisements inserting your town or city into them. GeoIP targeted ads allow the viewer to feel that there are people ‘just around the corner,’ who has lost weight, or is available for a date, and that your chances, are pretty darn good of either losing those unwanted pounds, or scoring that date. Or, perhaps on that far right hand side column on Facebook, in the ad space area, you see video games ads show up on a consistent basis, or advertisements for products from your favorite TV show, or books, beer, those sexy single ads. How does all this work? Advertisers don’t want to throw dollars to the wind, and that is what they are doing unless they work with Facebook and the data that Facebook has that you entered, and provide their advertisers the ability to focus their ads to the right people. So, if you put in your profile that you are single, you will most likely see ads for sexy singles. If you are a woman, you most likely will see a man in the ad. If you ‘liked’ a specific TV show, you will see products from that show. Social Networking is a growing business, and both Facebook and MySpace are not the only games in town; however, they are the largest. Companies like Onesite also produce for clients like radio stations, TV stations, and major department stores, for a fee, a social network for any business that wants to reach out and interact with their customers as a community. Not only is it a way to stay involved with customers, it provides the company with a constant list of potential sales leads. However, Facebook too, allows a business to create a business page to advertise their products or events. .
Ease of use verses security.
Not only do companies like Facebook have the ease of use verses security issues, large companies such as Microsoft, have for years, struggle with this issue constantly. PC World just reported more issues this last weekend that more bug fixes for Microsoft and Firefox. As Facebook’s interface grows, meaning the additions of new features, the Facebook team will need to plan better ways of rolling out these changes and better ways of informing the users.
On April 21, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg demonstrated how Facebook’s new privacy controls would work. While trying to make it easier for Facebook users to connect to friends and family, Facebook is also trying to make it easier for applications from third-party companies to connect to Facebook. During the F8 conference, Zuckerberg also mentioned the elimination of rules keeping third-party companies from storing your information for only 72 hours. Now third-party companies can keep and store your information as long as they wish.
Facebook is meant to be fun, free, and easy way to connect to people that you want to. Security, your privacy is an important issue now and in the years to come. As the Facebook continues to grow, and as new social issues develop around the concepts of networking, connecting, and communicating; staying informed is your best defense of the privacy and security of your identity on and off Facebook.