Facebook's changes to its data ownership policies have created an uproar in some quarters. Essentially, the company has said, once you load data on their servers, it's their data. All Facebook has done is to change its terms and conditions to reflect technical reality, monetary reality, and plain old reality. And I say more power to them and to Mark Zuckerberg for standing behind the change.
First let's look at technical reality. Facebook makes backups all the time (at least I hope it does) and it has data on more than one server. Is it technically even feasible for them to delete all your data? That would mean deleting the data of each server that ever had the data; deleting the data off each backup medium that ever had the data; and scrubbing the media to ensure that the deleted data can't be recovered. Oh sure, I think Facebook should do that for us. Every time somebody deletes a photo, an email, or an entire account -- Facebook should make all digital record of this go away. Folks, that's not realistic, and kudos to Facebook for stating the technical reality of social media.
Next consider the monetary issues. Facebook is in business to make money while helping people connect. It's not focused on people connecting for free -- it's a business in search of revenue. Now, according to its terms and conditions, it "may use information in your profile without identifying you as an individual to third parties." If Facebook identifies you personally, then it should burn in the hell known as public and media outrage. But summary data: There's gold in them thar hills. Just one example: Research companies administer millions of surveys each year to find out what people like and don’t like. Facebook has all that data and more! Selling that summary-level data would pay for a lot of servers and a lot of shareholder happiness. I don't know what Facebook's plans are with regard to this data -- but I know they want to make money!
More important than technical and monetary reality is just plain old reality -- physical, real-world reality. The data has been posted on a Website. One of your Facebook friends could have done a screen capture of the data; they could have copied the data and pasted it into other documents, or, heck, they could have hired monks in Tibet to transcribe the data. If you suddenly become famous and delete your page, data may still be in the browser cache on their PC. The genie is out of the bottle. You made the data public -- you have no control over what other people do with that data. Facebook cannot be expected to block all the people who viewed your data from abusing that data!
There is a solution if you are concerned about the privacy of your data -- don’t make it public! Social media is fun. It offers a great way to make connections -- but it comes with risks! Borrowing liberally from an old bumper sticker, Facebook does not post embarrassing information... people do.
— David Silversmith, Internet and Web analytics consultant, and former CTO of Carfax
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