Facebook’s Data Collection Policy: Giving Away Your Private Information

Facebook's Data Collection Policy: Giving Away Your Private InformationThousands of companies that provide internet services systematically and purposely collect confidential information belonging to every person who uses their web platforms.

Social media, search engines, mobile apps and games — all of these ask for, collect, maintain, and in some instances re-distribute personal information about their users.

Facebook recently confirmed its dark side when it changed the name of its “privacy policy” to a “data collection policy.” While their honesty is to be commended, you should step back and consider why and how Facebook is using and misusing your most secret and identifiable information. When you post pictures on Facebook’s wall or update your timeline or profile, Facebook’s privacy controls allow you to dial restrictions as to whom can see pictures of you with your friends (thereby identifying them), your musical, political and social interests, where you live, your date of birth, and everything else that you have elected to upload to this billion-user social network. Keep in mind that Facebook itself has access to all of your information, whether restricted to other users or not. Facebook “likes” you, whether you “like” it back or not. Facebook knows everything that you tell it.

What a “like” really means

Facebook also knows a great deal about you that you have not disclosed. Every time you visit a Facebook webpage, the social media giant identifies your location, the computer you are using, the websites you have visited before going to the Facebook page, and the websites that you visit after you leave. In addition, many websites contain that famous blue Facebook “F” logo that allows you to click and “like” the page. What is seldom known is that the Facebook logo and “like” button are actually located on Facebook’s computer servers, not on the computer or website which you are visiting. As a result, as soon as you land on a webpage containing the blue Facebook “F” button, the Facebook company immediately and automatically garners a tremendous quantity of information about you. Even without clicking the “F”; even before you “like” the webpage; merely by landing on that third party website, you have simultaneously landed on Facebook’s computer servers, even if you are not a registered Facebook user. Not only does Facebook “see” your identity, your location, and computer; Facebook also has access to everything that you do on that third-party website. Purchase a product on a Facebook-linked page? The social media company knows about it instantly. Request additional information from that third-party website? Facebook knows precisely what you have asked.

Apps and privacy

What’s more, if you enjoy Facebook apps, you may be surprised to know that Facebook authorizes access to customer information to the app providers. Even though Facebook itself has imposed some restrictions on its internal use of your information, Facebook has no control over the third-party app developers. Although some of these companies limit the unauthorized disclosure of your information, are you ready to release your personal information to unscrupulous companies which provide a game or service that you enjoy?

In the 20th century, to avoid the glare of public scrutiny, you would have taken care not to parade through Times Square, holding a banner containing your most private information. In today’s wired world, all you need to do is use Facebook, Twitter, or Google, and your most precious secrets may be revealed to the world.

© Copyright 2013. Meltzer, Lippe, Goldstein & Breitstone, LLP. All rights are reserved.

Featured image courtesy of Franco Bouly licensed via Creative Commons.

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Paul Rubell

Paul is an Equity Partner with business law firm Meltzer, Lippe, Goldstein, and Breitstone, LLP. Paul practices in the firm’s Corporate Law Group, and heads its Social Media and Cloud Computing Groups. He is a trusted advisor to business owners and helps entrepreneurs solve the legal, business, tax, and cash flow issues that confront their companies each day. Paul advises technology companies about software licensing, cloud computing, social media, privacy, technology transfer, intellectual property, and cutting-edge legal and technological innovation. For operating companies, he provides day-to-day legal and business advice, contract review, and strategic planning. Paul also renders sophisticated counsel for extraordinary and liquidity transactions.