But I'm not on Facebook...

People who choose not to be on social networking sites should have the right not to be on social networking sites - privacy, reputation and control on Facebook.

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Right to privacy

A non-users Facebook identity is determined by a posting made by others yet linked to them ie. tagged images and posting by others featuring them.

When non-users are tagged in a photo or video there is currency attached to that content. Tagged content may indicate details of a non-users lifestyle, relationships, holidays, hobbies, music taste and much more. Details of their lives may be exposed to people they may not wish to be visible to. Aspects of their identity may be open to the scrutiny of colleagues, current or prospective employers, potential in-laws, ex-lovers, family members and possibly, complete strangers. Non-users lose some control of their right to anonymity.

As Giles Hogben, author of 'Security Issues and Recommendations for Online Social Networks' argues "the tagging of images with personal data without the consent of the subject of the image violates the user's right to informational self-determination (the control over who publishes their data and where)".

And Facebook holds a serious amount of our personal data. In the three months to March 2012, an average 300 million photographs were uploaded to Facebook every day.[1] That's a staggering amount of visibility. Facebook users can tag people in these uploaded images even if the person shown is not a Facebook member.

Whose responsiblity?

Facebook's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities (SRR), which is rather difficult to locate, makes some reference to 'Protecting Other People's Rights'.[2] The company tells users 'you will not tag users or send email invitations to non-users without their consent,' thus clearly putting the onus of responsibility on the user to obtain non-user consent.

The problem is, not everybody is responsible. Not everyone shows due consideration to other people's reputations or expectations of privacy. Indeed a recent survey by photo gifting site MyMemory, showed some users commit 'photo sabotage' by deliberately posting unflattering pictures of others.[3]

Furthermore children as young as 13 can have a Facebook account. Are children really expected to understand the meaning of terms like infringement, trademark or intellectual property? And its not just children, most Facebook users are not Ivy League educated like Mark Zuckerberg, and his peers.

By putting the onus of responsibility on its users, Facebook is shirking its own responsibility.

Moreover Facebook's frequent policy changes have led some users to suffer confusion and what one study described as 'Privacy Fatigue'. The 2011 study by Which? Magazine found Facebook had made at least nine significant changes to its privacy settings over an 18 month period.[4] These frequent tweaks, adaptations, updates and changes indicate that Facebook is a work in progress, a social experiment if you like, where its users are the guinea pigs.

Non-users identity exposure depends on a user's privacy settings. At time of writing users can choose one of the following privacy settings:[5]

  • Public
  • Friends of Friends
  • Friends (+ friends of anyone tagged)
  • Only Me
  • Custom

Of course, this is subject to change...

[1] http://www.freezepage.com/1341583882DKSAEPULPW

[2] http://www.freezepage.com/1341583961SRTUDZPJLE

[3] http://www.webcitation.org/68xJipKZt

[4] http://www.webcitation.org/68xJrJPcF

[5] http://www.freezepage.com/1341584171TVWLPPQBIQ

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