Should You Join Facebook Now?

By Marilynne Rudick on June 15, 2010

When friends asked me whether I thought it was safe to join Facebook, I’ve said yes. But I cautioned them to limit personal information and customize their privacy setting to control who has access to their information. But in recent weeks concerns about privacy breaches at Facebook have caused me to reconsider.

My advice: if you aren’t already on Facebook, hold off joining and see how Facebook makes good on its promise to safeguard your privacy and  protect your personal information.

Controlling access to your personal information used to be fairly straightforward. You could chose  to share information, such as your posts and your photos, with “friends,” expand your network to include “friends of friends,” or let it all hang out and let “everyone” access your personal information.

Third-Party Apps Put Privacy at Risk

Facebook grew from a simple networking site, where you kept in touch with friends, to encompass thousands of “third party” apps created by independent developers to work on the Facebook platform. Here’s where privacy got dicey. Controlling privacy involved choosing the information that app developers could access. For example, if you’re using an app that gives you restaurant reviews, the app might access your address to give you reviews of restaurants in your neighborhood. A greeting card app could use your birthday to remind your friends to send you a card.

Protecting your personal information was becoming a full-time job. The New York Times recently reported (Price of Privacy? Start Clicking) that to manage your privacy on Facebook, you’d have to navigate through 50 settings with more than 170 options.

It gets more complicated.  A few months ago, Facebook changed its privacy interface so that the default option for privacy settings was “everyone.” Some users found that their privacy options had automatically been changed to the default as a result of implementing this new interface.

These changes resulted in an uproar from Facebook users and privacy advocates. Over 35,000 Facebook users pledged to quit Facebook to protest the way Facebook handles personal data.

Facebook Promises Simpler Controls

Facebook quickly responded to the uproar. Marc Zuckerberg, Facebook’s 26-year-old founder, promised simpler ways to control privacy: putting all privacy options in one location and allowing y0u to opt out of all third-party apps.

But Facebook’s new privacy settings are getting mixed reviews: a step in the right direction, but still too complicated. For example, you can now turn off all third-party apps with one click. But if you want some but not others, you have to set the privacy settings for each app separately.

Proceed with Caution

If you are currently a Facebook member, take some time to check out the new privacy options. (After logging in, click “Account,” then “Privacy Settings.”) Don’t forget to also check your privacy settings for “Applications and Websites.” (Click the link at the bottom of the page.) Thinking carefully about how you use Facebook (networking with close friends, reconnecting with old friends, playing games) will help you make good choices about sharing your personal information.

But if you are not yet on Facebook, don’t rush to join just yet.  Wait and see how the new privacy policy plays out.

Categories: Facebook, Safety & Privacy, Social Networking
Tags: , , , ,


  • Friend!

    Posted by: rutuja on July 13, 2013 at 8:49 am

  • Write your comment

    Posted by: rutuja on July 13, 2013 at 8:46 am

  • iam join in facebook

    Posted by: thoufik on August 29, 2011 at 12:56 am

  • Write your comment

    Posted by: Durai on July 26, 2011 at 2:59 am

  • Help! I’m still mystified about the advantages of say Facebook over e-mail. My e-mail correspondence is usually on a specific topic and is directed at one or two specific people. If I should want to contact old school buddies or some relatives, I prefer to contact them individually. I’m not interested in telling the whole high school class or disseminating information to relatives I’m not close to. It’s not that I’m such a private person, or afraid of privacy issues. It’s just that my correspondence is not just general information for everybody– it’s personal to each of my many friends. And e-mail handles photos just fine. Soooo, what can Facebook do for me to make my life better? Thanks

    Posted by: Karen Leighty on January 26, 2011 at 1:20 pm

  • I used Facebook for the first time to view my mother-in-law holding her great grandson. Had to use my sister-in-law’s login which I promised to keep under wraps… Wanted to hear others thoughts about recent news with Pttsburgh Pirates “Pirogie” who was initially fired for postingn disparaging remarks about the Pirates on Facebook.

    Is there not a line between personal website with “friends” and your job? Much bad publicity came to the Priates for firing one of their $25 a day mascots who runs between innings of home games. They were in the midst of a 12 game losing streak and 18 plus years of consecutive losing seasons and were ridiculed for firing their Pirogie…

    What is the line here… Eventually they rehired the Pirogie fellow who said he still a fan… Other comments?

    Posted by: Ian on June 26, 2010 at 12:12 pm

  • OMG This is great . Monday mornings are hectic, but I must read and learn this info. Thank you so much.

    Posted by: Evy Simpson on June 21, 2010 at 1:01 pm

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