Can Facebook be Trusted in Wake of TOS Debacle?

Dennis Faas's picture

Are you careful with the friends you keep? What about those on your Facebook page? According to a recent report, your "Friends List" could determine which doors are open and closed to you in the near and distant future.

The report likens the situation to this: say you hung out with some super lefties during your early years -- perhaps even Communist Party members -- and you keep those chums, be they close or distant friends, on your Facebook Friends List. Several years later you decide to run for office or apply for an executive position at a big corporation; will those friends come back to haunt you?

Until Facebook officially changes its controversial terms of use (TOS) policy, users don't actually own anything on the site -- even if they terminate their membership. Since February 4, Facebook's new terms of use policy allows the popular site to share your personal details with third party organizations, even after you've decided to delete their account.

Thankfully, Facebook and CEO Mark Zuckerberg have decided to revert to the more agreeable terms of service penned prior to Feb. 4, meaning user details should evaporate when users wish to end their association with the site. (Source:

However, some critics believe users have already waived the right to privacy by merely opening a Facebook account.

Whether or not to Share Personal Details

Fox News recently pondered this question: "But some may ask -- didn't you already make that decision when you shared your life's details and photos with your 400 Facebook friends, who then shared your personal news with their 400 Facebook friends, and so on? Shouldn't you expect to lose some control over what happens to your photos?" (Source:

Privacy groups agree that despite the danger, users continue to share too many personal details online. "You would think that it would be absolutely obvious at this point, given the amount of media and general societal chatter about that fact, but it still amazes me that there's surprise around this issue," remarked New York City-based privacy expert Lisa Sotto.

"Clearly these are sites that use data very robustly and store extremely sensitive data, and that should be absolutely obvious to any user."

It seems many privacy groups have lost faith in Facebook, even after the site's decision to revert back to a more favorable terms of use policy. To these media watchdogs, it's not unlikely that the company will again seek a similar policy, perhaps one not quite so obvious with its privacy violations.

Randy Skoglund, director of Americans for Technology Leadership, believes these companies owe their users more honest policies. "Facebook, and other online companies, need to be transparent in their business practices and let consumers know exactly what personal information will be retained and what it will be used for," he said.

Of course, it takes two to tango, and Facebook users may need to be more vigilant than ever before in protecting themselves online.

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