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October Editorial: Facebook Spark Controversy Over Lack of Privacy

Byline: by Brooke Ketron

Posted: January 16, 2012

It is no secret that Facebook is the most popular form of media today, but it is not all about just keeping in touch with old friends. The September, Facebook, once again, made changes to the main Homepage layout. Now, user's actions, which were previously displayed on their "wall", are not shown through a live stream on the stop right corner of the website's homepage.

Before, the visibility of actions such as adding new friends or commenting on someone's status could be controlled through privacy sharing setting in the old format. The new layout does not allow such privacy. Users were able to hide certain actions from other users and decline to share certain information. Now it seems almost impossible to keep things hidden, especially from the real-time action stream.

The overwhelming response to the changes in the Facebook were those of disapproval. Many users mentioned and made complaints about the lack of privacy and even attempted to find ways to make their profile more private. One way to make actions less accessible is by asking those on your "friends list" to unsubscribe from your news feed. The fact remains that privacy and social media do not have the most compatible relationship, but are they supposed to?

Social media--Facebook in particular--may seem like an easy way to talk to friends and family, but it’s really more complex. A few mass communications classes will fill you in on the real intent of social networking. Facebook is built around the world of advertisers, but not in the way you may think. Facebook is not just giving advertisers a place to market a product or service, it is also selling the advertisers an audience.

Have you ever noticed when you click on a link to "like" a certain artist or product, that advertisements for that product will begin to appear on your sidebar? That is because data is recorded with each and every click made within the Facebook website and is in turn given to advertisers.

It became clear to me after the updates to Facebook that many users were not aware of this ongoing phenomena. I found it rather alarming that more people are not informed on the advertising market and how our so-called lives are simply commodities to be distributed through surfing on a web page. If people were aware of this ahead of time, perhaps the changes to Facebook would not be as shocking.

I was particularly surprised at the amount of people stating they were going to change to other forms of social media in order to maintain their privacy. With the success of Facebook influencing all budding social networking web sites, it’s likely that their data system also keeps track of personal browsing in order to advertise more appropriately to the user.

Switching to Google + will not exclude anybody from the rush of advertisements we face each and every day. It is simply the same data being collected and the same advertisements being delivered. It is just no longer on Facebook.

Facebook is becoming more obvious and direct with their intention of delivering demographics and psychographics to advertisers. It is the responsibility of users to be aware of this and use the media as they see appropriately. By educating yourself on advertising and social media in general, you will be able to recognize the lengths advertisers go to receive our information and create ads they think will target the right audience.

Abandoning Facebook, switching social media web sites and improving privacy settings still will not protect you from advertisers. The fact of the matter is, we cannot escape the commercial world we live in, especially on the Internet. We either accept the changes Facebook makes and live with the idea that each of us is being sold, or we deactivate our account and move on. Either way, privacy is becoming nearly impossible to obtain.

Last Updated: February 24, 2013