How Tagging Can Be a Facebook User's Best Friend
With Google's recent facial image documentation, millions of Facebook users are now at risk due to 'loopholes' in the privacy system. If you're concerned about your privacy as a Facebook user, the first step is to go over your privacy settings.
1) Can people find you on a generic people search?
If you're an average Facebook user, you -want- to be searchable. But beware how much information you reveal to people who don't know you. Any of that information is up for grabs by companies like Google—including your profile picture, if you reveal it.
2) Can your friend's friends see all of your information? Can people in networks you're a part of see all your information?
It's one thing if you are a part of a school network, or community network. But becoming part of a generic network like "Boston" or "Philadelphia" networks and allowing anyone in those networks to see your information puts you at risk, not just from individuals but again, big information-gathering companies like Google.
3) Pictures—how a combination of privacy setting that you think are protecting you are actually exposing you.
Let's say you reveal only your name, profile picture, and the networks you're a part of to anyone on Facebook who is not already you're friend. That seems pretty safe, right? But that means Google—again, among other companies—can see your profile picture, and guess at who you might know and what you might be associated with. No biggy.
But here's where it gets hinky. You go to a college party or a company party and someone you're friends with (on Facebook) snaps a somewhat unsavory picture of you. If it's really quite awful, you can ask that friend to take it off facebook. Or you can untag yourself from the picture so that if someone is browsing through your photos, he or she won't happen upon it. But what if your friend's privacy settings aren't quite as tight as yours, and the album that unsavory photo is in can be seen by anyone?
If Google's got your profile picture, or a series of your profile pictures, and there is a picture of you floating around on the web -with no privacy settings attached-, they will find it. And the next person who does a Google image search on you will find that picture, along with all your profile pictures.
Solution? Tag, tag, tag! If your privacy settings are set right, you can block EVERYONE you aren't friends with from seeing any pictures of you. That means by tagging a picture, you are protecting it from the web. An untagged picture may be hard for your friends to find, but that makes it all the easier for the world to find because facial recognition software that scans the web will find any picture of you that is free for the world to see. Yes, that picture might be unsavory but you can block co-workers, superiors, or relatives from seeing pictures or albums on your profile.
Ultimately, the greatest privacy can be achieved by not having a Facebook page—or using the internet—at all. Certain companies plant what are called "cookies" on your computer—not viruses, but information-gathering tools—that monitor the websites you visit. The gathered websites form a sort of personal picture and can reveal a surprising amount of information about you. Ever wonder why the ads on Facebook seem so relevant to you? This is because the sites monitoring you can distribute the information found to advertising companies that can bombard you with ads related to your recent searches. The solution for this is to download free plug-ins or extensions for your internet browser(s) that block these sites from following you around the web. But beware, information can still get through as these blocking extensions are not perfect.
Happy Facebook! And happy browsing!