Facebook and its threads to privacy

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Facebook and the Threats to Privacy
Online Social Networks are tools that let us communicate with friends and family, share our lives with them, learn about theirs, and sometimes even to establish new relationships through the internet. Social Network sites are being broadly used by young people and adults all over the world, with the formers being the main target market of the largest onlineSocial Network of the world, Facebook. According to recent statistics which can be found on Facebook’s home page, the site has 500 million active users around the globe, who have an average of 130 friends in their contacts lists. The same statistics also show that it is estimated that the average user spends around 58 minutes per day browsing the site, sharing and receiving information. Facebookhas several places where different types of information can be shared, some of them are: personal profiles, which contain information such as names, age, address, school, phone number, email, etc.; walls, which allow the users to make any type of comments on other users’ walls; and photos, where any picture can be uploaded to the site, shared with everyone who has a Facebook account, and commentedon by anyone who is able to see the picture. Everything is ruled by privacy restraints that can be set up by the users, where they have the option to choose what they want to show and who they want to share it with. Although Facebook presents a good alternative to interact with our friends when a real face-to-face interaction is not possible, one of its main issues is the danger that it representsto the privacy of its users. Facebook is constantly reinforcing its security systems and also improving the privacy configurations available; however, these efforts do not eliminate the problem. Maybe, because it is not about how safe the system is or what options the users have to limit their profiles, but it is about the amount of information they share, the contacts they have on their lists,and the cleverness of the hackers.
The amount and type of information Facebook users share with others is one of the main threats to their privacy. The article “College Students’ Social Networking Experiences on Facebook” by Tiffany Pempek et al, from the department of psychology of Georgetown University, shows the result of an investigation made with 92 college students regarding their habits onFacebook. One of the sections of the report shows that more than 90% of the studied sample shares the following information categories on their profiles: Hometown, School, Gender and Birthday, but there are also other categories that less than 90% and more than 60% of the studied students share, such as: Political view, work, relationship status and sexual orientation. The paper also analyzespersonal walls and photos, which constitute the second half information sharing method on Facebook, and classifies the most common types of wall posts into the following categories: referring to inside jokes, to catch up, to make plans, commenting on profiles or pictures, just to say hello, to talk about courses, to tell a friend about a past event and to gossip about others. So, if users are sharingall this private information online, what would happen if it falls in the wrong hands? This is a question that only users can avoid controlling what they post on the site.
Another threat to the privacy of Facebook users are the great numbers of contacts they have. As discussed above, an average Facebook user has 130 friends, but if we ask ourselves how many real friends we have and how many we cantruly trust, we would find out that this number is much smaller than 130. The problem is that among those 130 friends, usually there is no differentiation between acquaintances, friends, close friends and family. In most of the cases, people does not set up different privacy restrictions for each group; instead, they have a privacy restriction between those who are not in their contacts list...
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