facebook-function by umarwaqarkhan

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									Facebook recently got into trouble when it was revealed that they were
behind a Google smear campaign. Essentially, Facebook hired a PR firm to
get journalists and bloggers to write negative press about Google’s
privacy policies and practices. The tactic backfired when some
enterprising journalists did some research and found out that Facebook
was behind the campaign.

Although we can all speculate about the PR damage that such a revelation
might have on Facebook, the interesting psychological aspect behind all
this is the that Facebook is constantly being slammed for breaching user
privacy but rarely are any of those accusations true. Facebook wanted to
level the playing field a bit by bringing Google’s privacy policies to
light and attempt to and get some heat off their own backs. That’s
understandable. If you feel like you’ve being dealt with unfairly, it’s
normal to want to point fingers elsewhere.

The secret smear campaign was not Facebook’s finest hour. And although I
don’t condone their actions, I can understand their frustration. Facebook
has had some privacy issues in the past, but that’s what you get when a
couple of college kids start a social network out of their dorm room. The
reality is that Facebook has fixed most, if not all, of those issues. The
tricky part is that Facebook started out as a “secure” place to interact
with friends, and it has slowly encouraged users to by more public. So
any change to help users have a more social experience inside or outside
of the Facebook space is usually met with extreme confusion, frustration,
and anger by users—fueled by misinformation about Facebook security.

But the reality is that, although Facebook appears to be “sharing”
personal information across the web—involuntarily, in some cases—every
user has complete control over their personal information and how it is
shared across the internet. But the appearance of Facebook making your
information public is enough to scare people away and create some
powerful myths about how Facebook information is shared across the
internet. Let’s take a few of the myths surrounding the Facebook Connnect
feature and discuss why they are not threats to your privacy.

Myth #1: Facebook Gives (or Sells) Your Personal Information to 3rd Party
Sites Through Facebook Connect

First of all, Facebook has never and will never sell user information to
3rd party sites. Second, Facebook Connect doesn’t give any user
information away to any other website without user permission. This last
phrase is key to understanding pretty much all Facebook privacy issues.
Whenever users use Facebook Connect to log in to a 3rd party website,
users have to give their permission for that site to access their
Facebook information. And the type of information that the 3rd party site
wants to access is presented to users (in a popup) upon using Facebook
Connect for the first time on that site. In addition, users always have
the option of denying access to their Facebook information by clicking
“Deny.”

If users use Facebook Connect, see the popup, and click “Allow.” The
information requested by the 3rd party site is shared, and the 3rd party
site can store that information in their own database, separate from
Facebook. That’s why it is common for users to encounter a pre-populated
registration form after they’ve clicked to use Facebook Connect. In
addition, even if users encounter a pre-populated signup form, that
information won’t be saved in the 3rd party website until the user clicks
“Register.” So there are many opportunities for users to deny the sharing
of information or edit the information before it is saved to a 3rd party
website.

In all simplicity, Facebook does not give user information to 3rd party
sites. The users do.

Myth #2 Facebook Connect Will Make Your Information “Public” on the 3rd
Party Site

As pointed out previously, users are the ones that decide to share
information with 3rd party sites through Facebook Connect. But there is a
fear that somehow Facebook is making users go public with the information
they have chosen to share with 3rd party sites in ways that will expose
them to strangers and—more importantly—individuals whom they don’t want
seeing this information.

That is a valid concern. If you’ve ever had a cyberbully or a creepy guy
who won’t leave you alone on Facebook, you understand the importance of
wanting to keep your personal information safe. The great thing about
Facebook Connect is that anyone you’ve blocked on Facebook will be
blocked from seeing your information on the 3rd party site through
Facebook plugins. For example, if that creepy guy won’t leave you alone,
and you’ve blocked him from seeing your personal information, if you both
join the same 3rd party site through Facebook Connect, he still will not
be able to see your picture or access your profile through social plugins
like Facepile or Like buttons.

However, when users share personal Facebook information with a 3rd party
site, that site may or may not have the same privacy standards that
Facebook has. And since the site has now stored user information in their
own database, that information could be shared with others users,
according to that website’s privacy policy. Basically, if you’ve given a
3rd party website access to your information through Facebook, the 3rd
party site can use that information in ways dictated by their own privacy
policy, which could be more public or intrusive than Facebook’s policy.
So, it is imperative that all users read and understand a website’s
privacy policy before sharing any personal information.

Myth #3: Facebook Tracks Users’ Activity Across the Web

It’s easy to think that Facebook is big brother. With features like
Facebook Connect and the bevy of other social plugins, it can feel like
Facebook is watching you surf the web and sharing your web history with
all your Facebook friends without your permission. But that’s simply not
true.

There are users who fear that if they visit a site with a social plugin
on it, and see their friends’ faces next to Like buttons or in a
Recommended Stories plugin, the fact that the user visited the site will
also be shared with the world. The reality is that Facebook only tracks
actions users take on other sites with the user’s express permission.
Facebook will never publish the fact that a user read a story on CNN.com,
unless that user has decided to click the Like or Share button on that
story. Once a user has taken an action to publish a piece of the web back
to their profile, they have implicitly given Facebook permission to share
the information with the user’s friends—both on Facebook itself and
through the social plugins on the 3rd party site. If any user does not
wish for their friends to see that they “liked” a story through a social
plugin, the user should not take any action that publishes their activity
back to Facebook.

In a similar vein, it’s important for users to know that Facebook Connect
does not work two ways. In other words, “extra” personal information you
share on a 3rd party site after using Facebook Connect to register will
not be shared back to Facebook without your express permission. For
example, after using Facebook Connect, the 3rd party site asks for your
social security number. If you share your SSN with the 3rd party site,
your SSN will not be shared back to Facebook without your permission.
Facebook Connect is a one-way street. Any activity you complete on 3rd
party sites will only be shared back to Facebook with your express
permission to do so.

We’re All Responsible for Our Own Privacy

Facebook, with its ever-widening push to share more information, is
placing the impetus for your online privacy on you. Any time your
personal Facebook information may be shared with a 3rd party site through
tools like Facebook Connect, you will be asked to allow or deny the
transfer of information. But Facebook is not responsible for the way that
3rd party sites use that information once they have it. That’s why each
user has to be responsible for their own online privacy by reading and
understanding the privacy policies and practices of any website with
which they wish to share personal information.

Plugins like Facebook Connect, Like buttons, and others, were created to
help users have an easier, more pleasant, and more social web experience.
But if these tools make you uncomfortable, take the time to visit your
personal privacy settings and adjust them to your comfort level. And if
plugins make you nervous, know that if you log out of Facebook when
browsing the web, those plugins will not work. So, take your online
privacy into your own hands, and when in doubt, log out.

								
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