Facebook's Privacy Problem

Akgun As someone studying Marketing, Advertising & PR at university with a special interest in Social Media I am certainly no stranger to the beast that is Facebook. Despite the heavy criticism it has received from its users I have always defended it, having the view that what you put on the internet, especially on a social website, is your responsibility.

For example when people complained that adverts on Facebook 'knew too much' I took the view (a biased marketer's one admittedly) that data intelligent adverts were a good thing. Why wouldn't you want specifically targeted adverts as oppose to the usual dating, money making and medical adverts people are often inundated with?

Increasingly though I have taken a more and more negative view to the way Facebook deals with its users and data privacy. When the founder of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg responded to data privacy concerns by stating that "the age of privacy is over" I was angered. It is one thing to inform users that they are responsible for the information they put on the internet, but another to completely disregard the basic human right to privacy that everybody deserves.

The final straw was when I found out that one of my personal Facebook accounts became blocked. I immediately contacted the website requesting that my account be reactivated, expecting them to apologise for the inconvenience. The reply I got was the complete opposite. In the email sent to me, they demanded that I send over to them, a scan of my passport or other government approved ID to confirm my own identity.

Their demand to any self respecting person, even a marketing student, is a step too far. The only organisations that should be concerned with my identity are the government and my bank. When I tweeted about this I received messages from people who said they had the exact same experience, several of whom complied glibly with Facebook's demands.

The fundamental issue organisations have when approaching the all important issue of privacy is a failure to acknowledge that an adequate understanding of privacy is primarily based on the integrity of context. The immigration bureau demanding a scan of your passport is far more in context than a commercial and part-public website demanding the same.

The way members of the public are treated with the issue of privacy is with absolute distaste from those that want to know everything about you. Their view is that they wield and that power therefore translates in to absolute opposite concordance with what power you have when protecting your own privacy.

There are only two reasons that Facebook is allowed to get away with their overzealous demands over your personal information. They can get away with it because people will simply obey and because there are no national or international laws governing who has a right to demand what personal information you hold and who does not hold these privileged rights. Both issues lie with one group of people, the members of the public. We have the power to do something about it, whether or not we choose to exercise this fast diminishing power is another matter.

By Yasin Akgun.

If you would be interesting in writing a guest post, please e-mail info@bigbrotherwatch.org.uk.


  1. John Locke
    14th October 2010

    interestingly a couple of years ago my facebook account was blocked as they accused me of not using my real name but that of a character from a tv programme called “Lost”…given my facebook contained messages from my students addressing me… as Mr Locke, a brief look would have shown it was my real name…..! I contacted them to protest, only to be told i had to “prove” who i was..luckily at that time a colleague of mine was working for FB so i just told them to visit the third floor of their own offices! given the amount of obvious pseudonyms i see on FB i am not sure why they picked on me…The irony was I has to create another FB profile under a false name to inform my friends what was happening!

  2. Slacker
    14th October 2010

    “The irony was I has to create another FB profile under a false name to inform my friends what was happening!”
    People managed to communicate with their friends quite well before Facebook came along, some of us still do!
    It’s a worry that so many people and organisations seem to think it’s compulsory to speak to each other via Facebook. Perhaps what you should have done is tell them to get stuffed and emailed or phoned your friends instead?

  3. Mitch Adams
    15th October 2010

    for once a very well written and honest article on Facebook and privacy concerns.
    too many people tend to go too far and make out that Facebook is an evil organisation which deflects from the real issues.
    i had know idea this was going on with facebook, it would have been interesting to know whether the author has stopped using Facebook altogether.

  4. Mike
    7th November 2010

    Paypal did the same to me. I sell on my own website and ebay, and they jsut shut my paypal account down (meaning that no one could buy form me), without warning, and demanded a scan of my passport. They also went through the “we will put 2 small deposits in your bank, and you have to enter those in the box” scenarion. But when i called them and complained, they said “if you give us the scan of your passport, we will put you back live, then the 2 amounts deposited can be done any time, over the next 2 weeks – ITS THE PASSPORT WE REALLY NEED” !!!
    So “they” are using facebook, paypal and whatever to DEMAND peopels passports. Remember, these ar eNTO British companies. The briitsh govt already knows who you are, but now AMERICAN companies are collecting our passport data (which we have no obligation to give them), by BLACKMAIL.
    First they get you to use facebook/paypal, then they demand your passport and completely shut you down, until you give it.
    Big Brother is AMERICAN, and he’s logging us brits, left right and centre.
    They told me they will do it with EVERYONE over time, so “not to worry”.
    But if you make a comment on you tube or facebook, now, against America, they may well arrest you, or even not allow you into their smelly, disgusting country.
    Worse, if they attack our country, they KNOW HWO YOU ARE !
    You’ve only gotta call Obama satan, and they KNOW !

  5. Air Jordan 2
    10th November 2010

    Hope that all of my friends have a happy weekend!

  6. UGG Shoes
    13th November 2010

    oh so funny!

  7. selling gold jewellery
    22nd March 2011

    its really sad…anyone comes and posts on your page… just because he belongs to your group…

  8. Beulah
    25th March 2011

    Just saying thanks will not just be adequate, for the superb clarity in your writing