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.