Social Media Privacy--Do You Really Care?

Facebook now offers users the ability to download all of their content in a simple zip file format, but this doesn't solve privacy concerns. Sure it's nice to be able to download all the content, but in the meantime Facebook still stores lots of valuable information about users.

Let's see a show of hands- how many of you have ever taken the time read Facebook's Privacy Policy? ... not many hands were raised which I find is the norm.

In the meantime here's what Facebook says about site activity information:

We keep track of some of the actions you take on Facebook, such as adding connections (including joining a group or adding a friend), creating a photo album, sending a gift, poking another user, indicating you "like" a post, attending an event, or connecting with an application. In some cases you are also taking an action when you provide information or content to us. For example, if you share a video, in addition to storing the actual content you uploaded, we might log the fact that you shared it.

eMarketer.com July 2010 estimates are that the advertising revenue for Facebook in 2010 is $1.28 billion which is about a 50% increase from the 2009 revenue of $665 million. It doesn't take rocket science to see that Facebook monetizes users' data and so it's hard to image that there is any real privacy on Facebook at all since Facebook sells information about everyone and what they do on Facebook.

What about Terms of Service and Privacy Policies?

Generally courts around the world enforce Terms of Service and Privacy Policies, but I continue to be amazed that so few people ever read these contracts that legally bind them to websites, and particularly Social Media sites. As part of my Law of eCommerce class I regularly review Terms of Service and Privacy Policies during each semester, and I find it fascinating that like businesses have such different business views....take a look at Google and Bing's Terms of Service and see how differently they bind their users even though they are in the same search engine business. For instance, Google does not require users to indemnify Google for claims brought against Google, but Bing does require users to indemnify Bing (Microsoft) if a claim is made against Bing based on the user's actions.

Think about Terms of Service and Privacy Policies

Often I find that my clients merely copy Terms of Service and Privacy Policies for their websites without taking into account that they may be in the software development and licensing business, but since they are not IBM, it's not a good idea to just copy IBM's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy as if they will properly protect themselves. One should use good judgment about how to bind users contractually to websites, and make sure the Terms of Service and Privacy Policies are consistent with the way their conduct their businesses.

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