Facebook is an Internet site that has many similarities to the popular MySpace website. Facebook is a site that allows users to create their own profiles and chat with other individuals. The Facebook website was originally intended to be used as a means for getting to know students and professors on college campuses.
Facebook privacy settings are basically all centered on your ability to allow or block individuals from viewing your profile. Your online profile consists of the things that you post to your profile which could include instant messages, photos, contact information, group info, etc. Your personal Facebook privacy settings can be set by going to the “privacy” page on your profile. The “edit settings” and “search” options are just a couple of the security features that you will want to make sure are changed from their default settings to settings that are more secure.
Limited profiles — Facebook’s privacy settings allow for you to set your profile as “limited” therefore blocking all users, except for the ones that you specifically identify, from viewing your profile. This is intended to give the user the security of knowing that only those who are marked as one who should be granted access will be allowed to see their personal information. Unfortunately though, Facebook has faced criticism as recently as September of 2007 for allowing their users to be searched for by non-members on sites such as Google. These “limited public profiles” were obviously security risks for those who would rather not have their profiles available for any Internet user to search for and see.
Data mining — Facebook has faced some serious criticism in the past because of the inclusion of data mining that was stated in their privacy statement. Data mining is basically the process of searching for information about an account holder through other Internet means and then using that found information to add to what the customer had voluntarily posted on their site. Basically, the privacy statement allowed for the inclusion of information on an individual’s Facebook account that could be found on other sites. Obviously, this did not go over well with Facebook users who would rather have complete control over the information that was posted in the site and Facebook has since eliminated this clause from their privacy statement and has ceased the practice of supplementing accounts with other found information. Facebook has also faced criticism about their sharing of information with third parties which has yet to be addressed or changed.
Configuration problems — Facebook has also received some poor marks when it comes to security as a configuration problem (as they call it) in August of 2007 allowed for their PHP code to be displayed in their main page, making the information of thousands of users available to a number of unidentified parties. Obviously such an error raised concerns about just how secure doing anything on the Facebook website actually is.
Guarding personal information — Because you can never be 100% sure of what personal information is shared or distributed on a site like Facebook, it is best to exercise extreme caution when submitting or posting any information at all. In fact, if you are really concerned about Facebook’s privacy settings it would be best to never post information that could identify you in any way. Even posting your name could be dangerous. Also keep in mind that clues about your identity can easily be found in messages that you send. For example, stating that you will be going to a certain school’s dance could give away the school that you go to, the city that you live in and even your age.