Public Outrage Grows Over Lax Privacy Polices At Popular Social Networking Sites
Recent actions by social networking leaders in the market place have brought new attention to a user’s privacy rights. Despite the fact that these sites provide a freemium service to users, abuse and arrogance of a user’s privacy rights combined with user ignorance has led to not only a public outrage, but also increasing action from privacy advocacy groups to petition government agencies. Three public examples include:
- Google+ Search Plus Your World controversy. The recent decision by Google to feature personalized search results from one’s contacts has generated an uproar. While users may opt out of receiving search results based on personal data, users can’t block information found by their Google+ contacts including those that are +1 pages, messages, contacts, and videos. Despite the personalization benefits to users and the fact Twitter and Google could not agree on terms on real-time search, the forced march and prioritization raises concerns over a user’s rights. Consequently, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has asked the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate Google’s practices.
- Facebook Timeline uproar. When Facebook recently rolled out their new Timeline feature, users expressed outrage. Though Timeline simplified access to a user’s profile, the lack of time to make changes, suddenness of announcement, and confusion over public versus private data furthered complaints. The constant stream of privacy changes without user control led to EPIC’s petition to the FTC and Facebook’s settlement. Facebook’s market dominance (see Figure 1.) and public proclamation that “The Age of Privacy Is Over” should lead to greater scrutiny by privacy advocates.
- LinkedIn Ads backlash. Rolled out in June 2011, LinkedIn exposed the products and services of interest to members for use with advertising. Advertisers could then display which members “endorsed” products and services from an advertiser. The lack of solicitation from an opt-in process led to a backlash from users and LinkedIn backing down to consumer pressure.
Figure 1. US Social Networking Sites Market Share By Page Views