Facebook and privacy don't belong in the same sentence

Controversy over the re-publication of private Facebook status updates on Storify goes to show that when you use Facebook, privacy is a pipe dream.

I'm rather surprised by the controversy over Storify and Facebook. It's a tale of threatened privacy that assumes from the outset that you actually have privacy when social networking.

In our story "Storify shows Facebook privacy more illusion than fact," Antone Gonsalves wrote:

A dustup over the republication of private Facebook status updates on Storify points to how privacy on the social network is relative and users must remain vigilant to avoid getting burned.

The online controversy started Friday when the business news site AGBeat reported that a person using Strorify's Chrome browser extension or bookmarklet could essentially copy and paste private Facebook content.

Storify is a tool for stringing together photos, videos and status updates from socialnetworks. The site is popular with bloggers and journalists.

Whatever Facebook content a person has access to can be republished on Storify. This means that private status updates from personal profiles and private groups can be copied. The ability of third-party sites or apps to breach Facebook privacy has been a concern for sometime.

On Facebook in particular, users assume that they have some level of privacy if only their connections can see what they're posting. That was never the case. And as I've noted in the past, a good chunk of the problem has to do with our own inability to hold back.

[See also: Six ways we gave up our privacy]

We've written many times about how our privacy has been eroded online. We've mentioned more than once that it's usually the user's fault for flaunting everything and lacking self control. Users always have a choice to give people a lot of their information or a little.

I'm as guilty of oversharing as anyone else. Local police informed me last year that someone had been trying to take out prescription drugs in my name. The only info they've gotten right about me is the month and day of my birth. I had it listed in my Facebook profile. I didn't have the year, and the would-be identity thief got the year wrong. I've since removed all birthday information from view.

The lesson is that this wasn't Facebook's fault. This was my fault, because I shared too much detail.

[See also: 4 tips for Facebook from security and privacy experts]

In this case, the more detail you put out there about your life, the more Storify has to work  with. I don't necessarily see this as a bad thing. I do write a personal blog about exposing one's personal demons, after all.

But if you cherish your own privacy, it's yet another thing to think about.

[See also: Facebook privacy unraveled, Part 666]

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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