Bits from Bill

Technology thoughts leaking from the brain of "Bill Pytlovany"

Monday, May 31, 2010

Can Facebook be Trusted?

Last week Facebook rolled out another round of what they consider easy to use privacy settings. What they’re really doing is trying to appear as if they’re doing something to address major privacy concern from customers and privacy organizations. Even Harry McCracken at Technologizer, says “Bottom line: Managing your Facebook privacy is still a remarkably convoluted process which isn’t explained clearly enough.”

Many of my friends received new Facebook settings on the first night but not everyone. I received one change however that baffled me. It seems that any post I made on my wall was set to be seen by “Only Me”.


It seemed like Facebook was saying “Screw you privacy advocates” by changing the default settings for wall posts to “Only Me”. “There you go, want privacy? Now nobody can see what you post”. I can’t imagine why this would even be an option let alone the default.

If I clicked on the padlock I was able to change it so my posts could be seen by “Friends Only” which was my normal settings. Unfortunately, I had to change this setting for each post I made.


When I clicked on Customize I was able to tell Facebook I wanted to change my default but it took four times before it would stick. These changes or bug appeared before the new security settings were rolled out to my account.

Plenty of people are doing articles about the new Facebook settings but I’m really asking the fundamental question. Can you trust Facebook? Based on my observations the answer is no.

Facebook creator Mark Zuckenberg has a vision of the world in which we all share information. It’s no secret that this remains his basic philosophy and goal for Facebook. When announcing new privacy policies he wrote…

“Six years ago, we built Facebook around a few simple ideas. People want to share and stay connected with their friends and the people around them. If we give people control over what they share, they will want to share more. If people share more, the world will become more open and connected. And a world that’s more open and connected is a better world. These are still our core principles today.”

Even if Facebook were to change and make sharing an opt-in service, my experience says we still can’t trust Facebook.

I have some info I want to share like my bird photos or other favorite photos. I have other images that are private for my family that I wouldn’t want available to everyone. I can easily imagine a day when all my photos are exposed and Facebook responding with “Oops, sorry it’s a bug we’re working on”.

I’m also very concerned about information which is shared with Facebook partners. These are companies who have no physical address and no known privacy policy.

I reluctantly continue to use Facebook to keep my eye on them and write about it. If they do something good, I’ll write about that as well. I have a Fans of WinPatrol page which I once promoted on I no longer encourage users to join Facebook and removed the link. I welcome current Facebook users to be Fans of WinPatrol but I don’t feel its safe to promote Facebook as a service to new users.

What do you think?

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Blogger Unknown said...

I agree with you, Bill and that's all I have to say :-)

8:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I decided to delete my account, because I didn't use it bi-directional anymore. And I didn't trust it anymore because of all the changes in settings and the hassle to get rid of all the 'bloat'. Deleting the account was not simple either.

8:39 AM  
Anonymous The Big Oaf said...

I agree with you wholeheartedly! When I think about all the personal information available to the public now, it makes me miss the old days, looking through the family photo album with real photos, or when meeting people, talking with friends & family, applying for work, etc. were all things we did in person and not electronically. Call me old fashioned but I prefer a handshake to an IM any day.

1:20 PM  
Blogger vanityplume said...

i don't think they can be trusted either, and i have an additional question about the privacy settings that i've not been able to find the answer to: on the applications and websites, what you're friends can share about you - do you have to tick the boxes so the info isn't shared? or leave the boxes unticked? the help section doesn't clarify - go figure.

5:18 PM  
Blogger wa8whp said...

If you do not want it spread keep it to yourself. If I have private information that must be shared, I send an email or snailmail.

6:46 PM  
Blogger Corpsecrank said...

I think it's funny that you wouldn't recommend facebook but still have a like button on this very page you wrote this on. Kind of ironic isn't it?

6:48 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I think there are even bigger concerns on your photos being accidentally shared. If you read their policy, it states that if you post something on Facebook it becomes the property of Facebook. So Bill, those personal family photos are now Facebook's and can be used in any fashion they chose (including selling them.) Unfortunately their biggest audience isn't an older and wiser group but a younger and more trusting audience.

7:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I wouldn't trust Facebook as far as I could throw their headquarters.

I had an account but have deleted it. I don't want others knowing what I post to a photo posted by someone, like say my daughter-in-law. Some things are mwant to be private, and like you, it would be just a matter of time before some "bug they are working on" will spill all the "private" remarks and such to the world.

With the founders core beliefs about Facebook, I will never go back on.

9:09 PM  
Anonymous Ron said...

as far as trust goes.... who can you trust on the internet.... I've seen banks, online stores etc having to say"oops! we're working on the problem. Bottom line is, if you don't want it out there.... don't put it out there.

10:06 PM  
Anonymous Wallace said...

The way i look at it is like this if u dont want something on facebook being public keep it off facebook all together. U the user have the control over what U put online always remeber that!!!!

10:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I deleted my FB account. Good riddance.

2:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is incredible the comments I'm reading. If you are so damned concerned about your privacy (that is a fallacy in today's world) then why in the hell would you even be on Facebook. Its the handful of people like you that seem to be jealous of the success of Facebook. Don't want your family pictures to be scrutinized, then don't put them on Facebook. Want to say something personal to a family member, etc, then call them on the phone. It's everybody's responsibility to protect their own private information. If you don't want anybody to see it, don't put it on Facebook or any other social network. The world we live in today is so different. Technology has brought us to this point, and if I remember rightly, it was demanded by the general public. As the saying goes, "Love it or Leave it".

2:29 AM  
Anonymous Don said...

I had a Facebook account. Last December I learned that someone had hi-jacked my name and was using it to send pornographic messages to my Facebook friends, several of whom assumed wrongly that I was sending those messages and they stopped communicating with me on Facebook or through emails, and they even refuse to take telephone calls from me. I also learned that someone had hi-jacked the names of other people on Facebook and were sending bogus messages (pornographic and otherwise) to other people with Facebook accounts. When I learned about those things I de-activated my Facebook and will never have an account there again.

6:08 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Some people are deleting their Facebook accounts, but dont realize that this probably can be harming them as well. From what I understand and heard on public radio (and read in other sources) that Facebook keeps your information, even when the account is deleted. So at this point, I would rather keep my account so I know where my images are (I am a photographer), and if I DO find them being used to make profit, I will be able to point to that image, as well as my saved image. Im not sure, but I do not think they have exclusive rights over the images - only the ability to use to promote Facebook. If ownership exclusivity of said photos is transfered to Facebook, Im not sure I understand why a lot of photographers submit their images anyhow. I am not going to anymore, however.

8:25 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Those that harp about Facebook privacy/security obviously don't get it. The entire purpose of the service is to share information. Privacy/security consist of you being intelligent enough to not put something on the site that you don't want others to know, duh! You have control over what you enter in your profile, etc. Good Lord, here we go again with individuals not capable of taking responsibility of their own actions.

8:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My problem is that other people can post pictures of you and say whatever they want about you. I don't even have a facebook account but for all I know, I'm still on there somewhere.

8:59 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Bjorn, I think you are the only intelligent person posting a comment here. Just don't post personal information, nor pictures that you don't want to share via the internet!!

9:28 AM  
Anonymous Gwen said...

While I understand, and agree, with your concerns I still have, and will continue to have, a FB account. As with all things you must be aware of the risks involved and make your decisions of what you "put out there" accordingly. I'm old enough to remember the controversy when the Internet first came out - and where are we now? You can not hide from change, only adapt and taking into account all the risks and benefits associated with it.

10:42 AM  
Anonymous Gabe said...

I deleted my account and that was the hardest thing ever to do. A couple of days before deleting it, and following a tip from a friend, I decided to remove my only picture from FB. From that day till I deleted my account, my face picture was no longer available on FB. However, it would come up on search under my name. How strange. I thought that after I delete my account, it would go away. NOPE. I deleted the account, and my picture still come up from a google image search on the facebook site. Go figure.

10:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Barb. Bjorn your post makes sense. The whole point of Facebook is to share. Who in the world would make comments on there that you don't want anyone else to know? Geez, that's just common sense. Which, by the way, is so lacking these days. Along with personal responsibility. It's not just Facebook you have to worry about. One time many years ago I googled a screen name I had (cannot remember why) and I found many posts from many sites that I made.
The internet makes no promises. It's there for your use. How you use it is up to YOU!

10:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One other thought. I agree with the person that said they didn't like that someone can post a picture of you and make comments on that without your control. It happened to me once, where I didn't want certain people in my family to see. Like my grandson. But there is a setting that you can block certain people from seeing certain things. So I did that. Doesn't mean something can't slip through the cracks its the chance I have to take. I decided it might be best to keep my acct and try to moderate it as best as I can.

11:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i want to know how a total stranger invited me to be a friend. the email i received also included addresses and invites to people i know but who don't know one another. how the heck did that come about?

from what little i've read about facebook, it seems like a total waste of precious time. i'd rather read a good book.

11:22 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

In my life I've trusted about 10 people, mostly family, and a few dogs. Why would it occur to me to trust a website? With what? My favorite books and movies. I'll tell anyone who asks, though I don't know why they would. FB doesn't ask for secret stuff. But I don't use FB's private message feature. It can't be trusted.

12:05 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Thank you for all the comments. To those who just say to quit because Facebook is about sharing are missing the point.

Facebook is claiming they allow you to control what gets shared and what isn't shared. For many of us Facebook "as advertised" provides a great service. It's convenient to post something once that is available to a particular set of friends and family.

The problem is Facebook doesn't work "as advertised". They are putting more resources into advertising and sharing than they are making a quality, secure service.

The telephone service is about sharing conversations but AT&T and Verizon does make an effort to prevent people from accidently hearing me talk to others.

And yes, I do see the irony of including a share this on Facebook icon on my post. :)
Facebook has millions of users and they are the best audience for this particular post.

Thanks again,

12:49 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Bill, love your article. I don't trust Facebook or their attempt to appease the public. I work in computer security as well and have been skeptical since opening my account years ago. I actually tried to cancel my account to see if it was possible but then a year later, I was able to go back in and reactivate it as if I had never left. I now only maintain an account to keep an eye on my kid’s privacy and close friends. It's easier to know what's up as an insider.

The same thing happened to me where my posts were only visible to me. Nothing like the invisible treatment to stick it to the privacy advocates. Scotty and recommend him always. He's really helped me out over the years.

12:51 PM  
Blogger Linda said...

Of course, you cannot trust FB. By now, I would think that every adult knows that anything you put on the Internet is open and therefore not put anything truly private on there.

There are other places for private thoughts. I haven't deleted my account. I still enjoy seeing what others are doing, saying. I still share my day, my dinner recipe, my attitudes. But nothing I don't want everyone on FB to see.

Why would anyone do that? It isn't for big private moments. It is for sharing. To expect it to be anything else is fooling only yourself.

The remedy is quite simple: use FB to communicate with those you haven't seen in 10 years, but enjoy seeing baby photos from, post invitations to class reunions, send a quick congratulations for someone's BD.

Just do not post anything that you want to be private!

6:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The issue is not sharing or getting connected. The problem is that everything you publish becomes their property to do with what they want. Even after you leave FB they still can do with your (theirs 8)) material what they want. So this is not about creating a whole community in connection with each other. Its creating a network they can exploit, or do you really think its all for free? Ofcourse you cant trust them.
So Bjorn and Barb i think you dont get it. But then again maybe you like to be exploited and help to make their bankaccounts grow. Anyway whatever people put on FB, they give it away for free. And i'm convinced they can see and read everything, even the private labeled.

4:15 AM  
Blogger TiggerT said...

This is ridiculous. Can you trust Facebook? : NO
Can you trust ANY information you post on the internet? : NO
The general rule should always be if you do not want the world to know, DO NOT put it on the internet. Facebook is the least of our privacy issues in todays webworld. You must be very naive to believe that you have total security for anything you do on the internet.
The internet has shrunk our world and allowed social barriers to be broken, much to the philosophy that Facebook is looking to do, and continue to do. For those open minded enough to accept different opinion and culture, I must agree the world can use the internet as a tool to bridge gaps socially, politically and otherwise. As a human race we will never reach utopia or pangaea of one unified citizenry, but it is nice to pretend, if not just virtually for awhile.
Bottom line, the internet and social communications is a wonderful gift. It just takes common sense. Talk to people, debate, discuss, share and reciprocate ideas. Even if it is as simple as tweeting that you are getting ready to go exercise or a Facebook post about the awful dinner you just cooked. What might be mundane to you could give another view to your neighbor halfway around the world.
There is no need to post every picture you take, announce your personal information, or say things you want only kept within the deepest recesses of your heart.
The internet is nothing more than standing in a room with unlimited access to the world. If you don’t want the world to know, don’t stand up in the room and announce it. Plain and simple.

8:26 AM  
Anonymous bearman2 said...

Like a few others have said... Facebook is a SHARING network. It's for fun and keeping in touch with people. If you don't want something known by others... don't post it on FB! You can send an email or make a phone call. You wouldn't walk through a crowded mall screaming out your Social Security number and credit card numbers, would you?
Take it for what it is..a place to share our thoughts and interests.

1:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Facebook security
Six things have always worked for me and I expect they always will. (1) I never show anything I don't want to be at least semi public (2) I do not subscribe to any third party gadgets and gimmicks because they become your "friends" and that means an unknown has access to your stuff (3) My settings are all "friends only" access. Obviously you can't trust a friend of a friend, especially when it may be a company. (4) If somebody I do not know asks me to be their friend I don't say yes (5) If I have to click on something special to see a photo or other object I don't do it (6) If someone unfriends me, I check to be sure it isn't because of some message sent by malware.

1:18 PM  
Anonymous Michelle said...

With the resourcefulness of people coupled together with the internet, something as innocent as wishing family & friends Happy Birthday for all "friends" to see gives a patient "opportunist" another piece to any puzzle they might be completing - or an easy first piece.

Who in the world has that much interest or time in your personal life?

Within our community, a public servant was sentenced for a crime, committed under the rader while being patient and resourceful. There is nothing "remarkable" about their life - in fact, looking back, you'd be hard pressed for clues anything was amiss.

The desire to control your FB account (or truly permanently delete it after you develop misgivings about the site), is nowhere on par with shouting your SS#, CC accounts, out loud in a crowded shopping mall.

...but I should be able to choose which store(s) within that mall I want to announce certain things, if in fact I have something to announce. Then if & when I get burned, it was my own doing.

6:21 PM  
Blogger DURF said...

I haven't trusted Facebook for years now and deleted my account. But just deleting your account doesn't remove your info from FB though. I had to find a link so I could completely remove my info off of the site. I've tried to tell family and friends that FB is not to be trusted, but they continue to post pictures of their kids and telling everyone where they are going when they are going and where they live. If that's not an invitation for a burglary then I don't know what is.

When I was a member of FB I got hack so many times it wasn't funny. I don't care what security measures FB comes up with, it will NEVER be secure enough for my likings!!!

8:58 AM  

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