The Importance of User Education in Privacy

I’ve been having a back-and-forth with an acquaintance of mine over Facebook for a while now. Whenever I see him post pictures of his young grandchildren I send him a message warning him that his Facebook friends can see them, and that perhaps his privacy settings should be stronger.

Every time he asks me “can you see them now?” and every time I say “yep” a few times until he finally fixes it.

I also have a friend who bragged to me that she has very few contacts, and that nobody can see any of her pictures unless she adds them as friends. Well, she was right. At least, she was right about all of the pictures that hadn’t at one point been used as her profile picture (which happened to be virtually none of them). All a person would have to do to access them is message her and any response would open up her not-so-limited profile.

She certainly didn’t know that this was the case. Does she realize that applications encourage me to add her pictures to a public database, like the celebrity face matcher that I mentioned earlier today?

I’m not making any complaints about Facebook’s privacy settings. In fact, aside from the Beacon fiasco and the fact that applications can access my pictures through my friends’ profiles, I’m generally very impressed.

I’m merely suggesting that the average users may be overconfident in their sense of privacy. Is it Facebook’s responsibility to make sure we take the time to learn how to use the site’s were using properly? Also, is there really any legitimate expectation of privacy?

… and if not, and we’ve entered the public sphere by joining Facebook, will this have legal implications? People who enter the public sphere give up a ton of privacy rights.

Let me know what you think.

– Jonathan Kleiman