Consumer Reports has released their annual report covering privacy and security issues on the internet. In it, the watchdog group created a special, separate report just for Facebook. Even though state and federal legislators have begun enacting laws to prevent employers from accessing potential employees Facebook accounts, Consumer Reports discovered that millions of Facebook users are freely giving away their personal information.
The most startling findings however, involve how much Facebook knows about its nearly 900 million members, and how much we freely offer — information mined by employers, insurers, the IRS, divorce lawyers, as well as identity thieves and other criminals
The most damning information could be used by employers and identity theives, yet Facebook users seemingly do not care.
- 4.7 million “liked” a Facebook page about health conditions or treatments (details an insurer might use against you).
- 4.8 million have used Facebook to say where they planned to go on a certain day (a potential tip-off for burglars)
- 20.4 million included their birth date, which can be used by identity thieves
- 39.3 million identified family members in their profile
- 900K discussed finances on their wall
- 1.6 million liked a page pertaining to racial or ethnic affiliations
- 2.3 million liked a page regarding sexual orientation
- 7.7 million liked a page pertaining to a religious affiliation
- 2.6 million discussed their recreational use of alcohol on their wall
- 4.6 million discussed their love life on their wall
Not only is this information astonishing, it’s absolutely baffling how so many people don’t know about any privacy settings on Facebook and willingly use the service without fully investigating who they give their information to.
Some don’t use privacy controls. Almost 13 million users said they had never set, or didn’t know about, Facebook’s privacy tools. And 28 percent shared all, or almost all, of their wall posts with an audience wider than just their friends.
While Facebook has simplified their settings to make securing an account easier, the onus still falls on the user to know how to changes these settings.
Consumer Reports does note Facebook’s efforts to simplify privacy settings and improve security — as well settle allegations from the Federal Trade Commission and submit to independent audits for the next 20 years. But the watchdog outfit also calls out Facebook’s support of the controversial Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (HR 3523), which would allow the social network to share your information with the government without judicial oversight, and states that the social network needs to do more.
It is a fact Facebook sells your information. The reality of the situation is that, until Facebook takes privacy and security seriously, it is the user’s responsibility to remain vigilant with their personal information. As always, the best advice would be to delete your Facebook account.
For those of you who still don’t know that this is happening, here’s a video from the Wall Street Journal that explains what’s going on.
A Wall Street Journal examination of 100 of the most popular Facebook apps found that some seek the email addresses, current location and sexual preference, among other details, not only of app users but also of their Facebook friends. One Yahoo service powered by Facebook requests access to a person’s religious and political leanings as a condition for using it. The popular Skype service for making online phone calls seeks the Facebook photos and birthdays of its users and their friends.
Much of the information that Facebook collects is illegal on a job application. It’s no wonder why employers now want to have access to that information. Read the Wall Street Journal article to find out more and be aware of just how much of your life you are sharing.
Kimberly Hester, a teacher’s aide in Michigan denied the superintendent of schools access to her facebook account, resulting in suspension and a lawsuit brought by Hester. It began when Hester put a photo of herself on Facebook. A parent of a student, who was friends with Hester, notified the school.
The picture shows that co-worker’s pants around her ankles, and a pair of shoes.
Once the superintendent found out, he asked to see Hester’s Facebook account. She refused. That’s when her troubles began.
A few days later, Lewis Cass ISD superintendent Robert Colby called her into his office.
“He asked me three times if he could view my Facebook and I repeatedly said I was not OK with that,” Hester told WSBT.
In a letter to Hester from the Lewis Cass ISD Special Education Director, he wrote “…in the absence of you voluntarily granting Lewis Cass ISD administration access to you[r] Facebook page, we will assume the worst and act accordingly.”
You have the right to privacy. Hester posted a private picture, which, presumably, is locked down and private, only for her friends to see. The picture was not taken at work (in this case a school) and was not connected to Hester’s job in any way, yet the superintendent chose to “assume the worst” and penalize Hester.
Hester said Colby put her on paid administrative leave and eventually suspended her.
“I have the right to privacy,” she told WSBT.
Meanwhile, Hester chose to take unpaid leave and collect workman’s compensation while she fights a legal battle with the school district. But she’s not backing down.
“I stand by it,” Hester said. “I did nothing wrong. And I would not, still to this day, let them in my Facebook. And I don’t think it’s OK for an employer to ask you.”
According to Facebook’s TOS, you are in violation of their policies by giving out your password and letting other people view your account. While there aren’t yet any federal laws restricting this, you do risk losing your Facebook account or much worse.
Although it could be argued that Hester’s picture was tasteless and crass, it was posted privately and was never intended to be seen outside her private circle of Facebook friends. Again, the only lesson that can be learned here is to either delete your Facebook account or never post anything to it because your employer or the police will always find a way to twist things into your fault, resulting in a loss of employment.
The case is due to go to arbitration on May 8th and it will be curious to see if the 4th and 5th amendments come up during the course of the investigation and arbitration.