• Mon, Feb 17 - 2:00 pm ET

There Is No Privacy On Facebook So Stop Complaining And Get Your Kids Off It

US-IT-FACEBOOKThere is no privacy on Facebook. The site uses your personal information to attract advertisers and everything you put on there is basically for sale – unless you are a master fine-print reader and can navigate opting out of the various levels of engagement that exist on the site. The good news is, you are not required to have a profile.

Two years ago, Facebook agreed to pay $20 million in fines and change its privacy policies after it was found in a class-action lawsuit to have used members’ images without their permission. They were used in those “sponsored stories” that show up on your newsfeed. Many groups are accusing the site of still using images, especially of younger users who may not understand how or spend the time to opt out of such things.

Basically, whenever you “like” an establishment, check in there or use an app associated with that company, your image may be used next to a custom ad for the business in the Facebook news feed, suggesting that you endorse it. The same is obviously true for your kids. The settlement the company reached does little to change that policy. From The Washington Post:

“The settlement now says that in order to use Facebook you have to agree that Facebook can do this,” said Scott Michelman, an attorney for Public Citizen, one of a handful of public interest groups involved in the new lawsuit. “In a way, this is worse than before the settlement, because Facebook doesn’t have to change its practice and now has legal language in place to protect itself from further lawsuits.”

Users sign up for Facebook services assuming they are free. We now know that they aren’t. Your data is being mined and used – their service contracts change frequently and secretively. Can anyone really say that they are %100 sure their data is protected on Facebook? I think not.

“The few new “protections” in the settlement are a joke,” says Guardian writer Annie Leonard. “For most children, the only change is some new legalese in Facebook’s terms of service saying that any user under 18 ‘represents’ that her parent agrees to let Facebook use her image in ads.”

Leonard argues “the idea that teenagers are really going to sit down and read Facebook’s legal terms, let alone read carefully enough to understand what they’re signing up for” is “out of touch with reality.” I think she’s right. I also think this is where parents need to come in and understand it for their children if they have concerns. But this is also a problem, because if parents could easily navigate this stuff, there wouldn’t be a class-action lawsuit to begin with.

This issue is this: everyone assumes Facebook is a free service and we all have the right to use it with our privacies intact. Wrong. Facebook is a multi-billion dollar business that will use our information in whatever way it can. We are all just signing up and handing this information to them on a silver platter – that’s the main problem. It is illegal in several states to use a minor’s image in advertising without parental consent, but Facebook is wilier and has better lawyers. They can also afford to throw money at settlements.

Let me be clear; I am on the side of the parents here. I think they are totally right; Facebook should do more to protect users. I just don’t think they will. Do you want to protect your kids and their images? Keep them off of social media. In this day and age that is probably close to impossible, so the next best thing is keeping yourself informed so that you can make the ever-evolving privacy tweaks the company will inevitably try to hide from you.

(photo: Getty Images)

You can reach this post's author, Maria Guido, on twitter.
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  • MellyG

    I couldn’t agree more. Well said. It amazes me what people will put on facebook, and while i’m not super private myself, i still get shocked with the amount of information some will share.

    Or, what they will allow kids to share. My uncle’s soon to be wife has a 13 year old. He’s been on facebook for years. She let him, and that alone amazes me. But what amazes me even MORE is that she herself doesn’t have facebook, because it “scares” her, and she can barely turn on a computer (i’m not making this up, her son has to load music on to her ipod, she can’t even open itunes……). This means she doesn’t monitor his facebook use, and she doesn’t have his password…..i just don’t get it. I’d be terrified if i were her. I have no idea if facebook will be a thing when i have kids old enough to want it, and how i’ll handle that, but i DO know that if they have a profile it will be closely monitored by me. I wouldn’t let me kids use something online that i didn’t know how to use

  • SA

    I think the main thing here is to not ban social media, but teach how to use it. Talk with your kids about what types of posts are appropriate, what types of pictures are appropriate, how to set your privacy controls, and not to click on a bunch of side-bar links or provide any info such as email, phone number, address. I don’t know that Facebook is here to stay, but social media is and I’d rather let my kid do it with guidance than behind my back.

    I also think it is a good lesson to teach children that corporations do not have our best interests at heart whether it be Facebook, Coca-Cola, or whomever, so to never use blind trust even with a privacy agreement.

    • Katherine Handcock

      I wholeheartedly agree. The only addition I’d make to what you said is that I intend to enforce Facebook’s 13 and up rule – I think it’s hard for parents to say, “Listen, here are the rules to safe social media use” and then turn around and say, “Oh, I know it says you have to be 13, but that’s okay” without kids picking up on the inconsistency. And if there’s anything I know about kids of any age, it’s the whole give an inch, take a mile thing ;-)

    • SA

      Agree completely. I won’t even allow younger family members whose parents let them have FB page friend me if they aren’t 13.

    • MellyG

      That’s what frustrates me with the uncle’s fiance letting her kid lie about his age to get on facebook……what does that teach him? Ugh

    • Kheldarson

      The same thing that my being able to read mature fic on fanfiction.net at the age of 14 did: ages are BS on the internet?

    • Boreal Explorer

      Gonna take a wild guess that ‘mature fic’ was about 1000% more wholesome for your omg developing brain and moral compass that any racist uncle meme on Failbook.

      Get the kids on better sites. (Fortunately most of them are getting smart enough to ditch FB nowadays anyway.)

    • Kheldarson

      I suppose you could call PWP more wholesome… definitely more educational *cough*

      Point mainly was that, to an extent, it’s difficult to enforce age blocks on the internet. FB is no different.

      Also, with as much FB filters your feed to show you the stuff you’ll supposedly really like, who sees the racist uncle anymore?

    • MellyG

      It’s difficult to enforce, but that doesn’t mean a mother should just go “oh sure, yea, lie about your age, i don’t even know what facebook is but yea sure”

    • Kheldarson

      Granted, there is a difference. I was being slightly tongue-in-cheek with my response :)

    • Boreal Explorer

      By the time I quit Facebook, it was still showing me a lot of racist uncles. I think the algorithm is more tuned for “maximum page views” (which includes so-called “rage views”) and consequent advertising exposure than for what would actually benefit the users most.

  • TngldBlue

    I try to remind myself that nothing in this world is free and to be especially leery of those things whose cost are not obvious. It irritates me when the same people that complain about the lack of privacy on FB turn around and post full on naked pictures of their new baby. So much absurdity.

  • Crusty Socks

    “I hate how my private moments end up on FB”

    **clicks add pictures/videos**

  • Kay_Sue

    The key really is trying to have honest and open conversations about social media and corporate (potential) malfeasance. Banning it outright would have made my teenage self even more attracted to it. Because my parents didn’t understand social media, there were never really any conversations about how to protect myself or what my information could be used for. Those are most definitely conversations I will be having with my own children. But kicking them off…they have far too much of me floating around in them for that to work, unfortunately.

  • DaisyJupes

    I feel the major problem here is people don’t read what they agree to. That’s your fault and no one but yourself (AND, not or, parents if the kid is under 18) is to be blamed.

    Due to laziness or whatever “rights” people think they have, it doesn’t matter. If you sign something that says you read the terms and agreements that say they can use your stuff, you’re stuck. Should have read it, since you said you did.