Facebook Sued Over Privacy

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Facebook Sued Over Privacy

Facebook and privacy. I have written about it before. Facebook changes its privacy policy or its settings, and now something you thought was private is now visible to the world. Now we get to add another chapter to the story. The headline says it all: “Facebook Sued Over Privacy.”

This time, however, it is not about Facebook taking your private pictures and sharing them with the world. It’s not about them changing your status updates from being visible to your friends to visible to all. This one is about those private messages you send to your Facebook friends. You know, the ones you use when you specifically do NOT want the conversation to show up in your timeline, or be read by all your friends, or the world, or anyone except the person with whom you are writing.

But here’s the thing. Some users are alleging that when they sent a private message to someone, and they included a link to something, that Facebook is scanning that message, analyzing the link, and then redirecting specific advertising to them related to that link.

Imagine that you are riding in your car, talking with your sibling. You are having a conversation, and you mention that you are interested in the latest Samsung smart phone that you just read about. Suddenly, you get an email from the electronics store right down the street from your location about the sale they are having on Samsung phones. It might feel a little creepy, huh? What if a similar thing happened five minutes later? After you start talking about a new pair of shoes you want, you suddenly get an email about a shoe sale around the corner. It might make you wonder if someone was listening to you.

Users of Facebook are alleging a similar type of thing is happening to them. They include a link in a private message, then suddenly there is an ad on their Facebook page related to what they just sent a link to in their private message.

Facebook is denying it did anything wrong. In order to know who is right, and who is wrong, we will have to wait and see what transpires. But I will tell you what I do know:

You should NEVER assume ANYTHING is private on the internet.

We can argue about whether that SHOULD be true, but I can tell you that as a private investigator, anything that is on the internet should be considered out there for the taking. If someone wants it bad enough, then they can probably get it. There are some things that are more private than others. There are some things that are “safer” than other things. This is true in most every area in life, physical or digital. But if you have something that you really don’t want anyone to know, using an internet messaging service via a company that is making money by selling advertising is not a smart bet. Your information, thoughts, and interests are of monetary value to them, because it is valuable to advertisers.

A good rule of thumb to follow: if you are using social media, assume that whatever you say may be shared with the world some day. Follow that guideline; some day, you will be really glad you did.



Keith Owens is the owner and founder of Owens Investigations.



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