Millions Ignore Facebook Privacy Settings

Social Media

Almost 13 million Facebook users in the U.S. ignore their privacy control settings. They just never set them, or in some cases, even know about them. This according to a new Consumer Reports survey on Facebook and its account holders, published this month.

Here’s another number that demonstrates how privacy-conscious many American social media users aren’t: last year, 28 percent of Facebook users shared all of their wall posts to more than just their friends.

And all of this profligate sharing can be a big problem. From the survey:

Some people are sharing too much. Our projections suggest that 4.8 million people have used Facebook to say where they planned to go on a certain day (a potential tip-off for burglars) and that 4.7 million “liked” a Facebook page about health conditions or treatments (details an insurer might use against you).”

So much more is revealed in the new Consumer Reports survey! For example, you already knew that Facebook collects a lot of data about its users. But did you know this? Facebook gets a report each time you visit a site with a Facebook-brand ‘like’ button. Even if you never clicked the button or are a Facebook user or are even logged in!

Your data is also being shared like crazy by other Facebook users. According to Consumer Reports, “Even if you have restricted your information to be seen by friends only, a friend who is using a Facebook app could allow your data to be transferred to a third party without your knowledge.”

Here’s something else the survey points out that certain folks should keep in mind: if you happen to be an American citizen, your legal protections don’t measure up to the rest of the world. U.S. online privacy laws are weaker than the ones in Europe (and most everywhere else) so Americans have less access to the tons of data social sites have collected about them.

Here’s an ominous note sounded by Consumer Reports:

And problems are on the rise. Eleven percent of households using Facebook said they had trouble last year, ranging from someone using their log-in without permission to being harassed or threatened. That projects to 7 million households—30 percent more than last year.”

25 percent of those surveyed said they’d falsified information on their Facebook profiles to protect their identity, up from 10 percent 2 years ago. Which may suggest that some users are increasingly concerned about how exposed they are online.

So people are making a mistake by not taking privacy controls seriously. And that is a serious mistake. But some argue in the survey that Facebook may be taking advantage of consumers. They question if its novelty as an invention, in addition to its off-the-charts popularity, has in effect shielded it from the laws of the land.

“Last time I checked, large corporate interests aren’t allowed to trample on widely recognized fundamental rights just because their founders have invented some new, profitable privacy-busting product, yet that is exactly what has happened to privacy rights over the past few years,” charges James Steyer, author of the book “Talking Back to Facebook.”

This important Consumer Reports survey has a lot more to say about social media and online safety. We’ll take a look at how kids fare on Facebook in an upcoming blog.

Talk To Us! Is the information in your Facebook profile accurate? If not, why not?

Image Source: Sky News