Did you survive the NASDAQ ups and downs when Facebook had it’s big debut? Are you still wondering how your Facebook data and the fact that your former college roommate plays Farmville on Facebook is worth $104 Billion?  Now that the hoopla is over and there is a Mrs. Zuckerburg in the picture, it’s time to focus on what really matters – your privacy or what is left of it.

I found it Freudian indeed when Facebook’s Chief Privacy Officer, Erin Egan, said they were not making a lot of substantive changes to the Facebook privacy policy, but that they wanted to “err on the side of providing too much information.” Read that phrase again because that is what Facebook has actively been doing for years – erring on the side of providing too much information. Expect this to ramp up to keep their market valuation in the plus column.

When Facebook announced their new privacy policy was open for comments after meeting with Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner (DPC), I was determined to read the policy for my clients. The policy was open for comments until May 18, 2012, so the marked up policy is not final but it provides hints as to where Facebook is headed.

So after I gave my husband a recap of the current state of privacy as I knew it, he softly says, ”That’s it.  I’m done.  I’m deleting my Facebook account now!” His reasons for getting off Facebook are:

1.  He doesn’t want to be “for sale”

2.  He would rather connect in person

3.  He doesn’t really need to know the daily eating habits of 300 “friends”

It took a few clicks but he finally found out how to delete his Facebook account without any withdrawal symptoms. He thinks he’s already saved an hour a day.  If he needed it, Facebook gives him a time period to reactivate it just in case he changes his mind, but I think he’s enjoying less “screen time” in his day. After going cold turkey he is surprised how many people told him they were considering deleting their accounts too. Maybe more people will start writing cards instead?  Who knew that the Facebook IPO might drive revenue to the beleaguered USPS?

If you do not have time to read more of this blog post, I’ll give you the bottom line about Facebook’s privacy policy in “tweet” form: Facebook’s new privacy policy spells out your lack of privacy.

If you want to know what the next generation of Facebookers think about using Facebook and their privacy, here’s a sneak peak. I teach internet safety classes for children K-12 and when I asked my middle school kids if they were going to spend a lot of time on Facebook this summer some of my students chimed in and said Facebook was “dumb” and a “big time waster.” Another student said they hated seeing photos posted of them online without their permission. One group of my middle schoolers actually did a skit where they showed how their real social life died because they were obsessed with being “connected” online via Facebook and other activities.

So, if you do not have time to read screens of information on the Privacy Policy for Facebook, I’ve pulled out the top 5 that struck me:

1.  They are going to share your data to send you ads OUTSIDE of Facebook.

2.  Facebook does not commit to a timeframe for data deletions, if ever. ”We store data for as long as it is necessary to provide products and services to you and others…”

3.  Anything you post really belongs to Facebook, and not you, including your photos.

4.  If a friend wants to download your information, your post, or your picture or just about any other piece of data you put on Facebook to their cell phone, they can. Convenient or Creepy?

5.  They admit they gather lots of information about you when you post, including the IP address, internet service, browser you use, and GPS location you are posting from and if you are on a mobile device or a computer.

The privacy policy is going to continue to morph and change and it is not scenario-based so you may find it hard to relate the words back to your own personal profile.  Flipping back to a report from the Irish DPC, their spokesperson was quoted as saying, “…there are a number of matters identified in our audit report..including retention periods and facial recognition specifically… that remain the subject of ongoing discussion with Facebook.”  If you want a story to relate to, read a frightening and true story about stealing someone’s face in a case of twisted identity theft that happened to a young college student named Whitney in my new book “Protecting Your Internet Identity:  Are You Naked Online?” 

So how will Facebook appease the stock market now that it is public?  They have to monetize their most valuable asset, their users. Fifty-six percent of Americans said they have a Facebook account and out of that population, 3 in 10 users in a recent AP-CNBC poll said they use Facebook every day. Most of those users are the younger demographic. Fifty-nine percent of Facebook users polled in an AP-CNBC poll said they do not trust Facebook to take care of their personal and private details. The very data that you share with friends and family on Facebook must be packaged and sold to firms. The only product Facebook has for sale is you. Not the physical you but the digital you: your information, your network of friends, your “like” button choices, how and when you use Facebook, the games you play, and more. Remember the Police song, “Every breath you take, I’ll be watching you” released in 1983?  How prophetic that  Facebook feels the same way about you, “Every breath you take, And every move you make, Every bond you break…Every word you say…Every game you play…Oh can’t you see?  You belong to me…”   You can almost imagine this being piped in as a theme song during a Facebook campus hackathon.

That’s the bottom line:  You are for sale. I did not see that spelled out in the Privacy Policy, did you? Now that they are a publicly traded company, there will be more transparency such as SEC filings and reviews, which can be a positive. Facebook typically listens to its users and has made concessions and compromises over the years. It’s too early to know though if Zuckerberg will he be able to hear the opinions of Facebook users over a Board and investors asking for their return on investment.

Facebook boasts roughly 800 million active users on Facebook. My husband requested to permanently delete his account, so now they have one less.

 

Theresa Payton is the co-author of the new book, “Protecting Your Internet Identity:  Are You Naked Online?”