Facebook Privacy Ethics
While “Like,” “Share,” and “Tag,” have made their way into our everyday vocabulary, the ethics of Facebook’s privacy practices has also become a matter of discussion. But what has not been brought to light are the restrictions (or lack thereof) on Facebook users in regards to their privacy and unclear rules on newsfeed manipulation.
From lack of user knowledge of privacy settings to targeted advertising due to user-specific “likes,” Facebook has received an increasing amount of criticism from users who believe their online privacy has been left up to the decisions of the company itself. Once a user has “liked” a group or organization, Facebook tailors future newsfeed make-ups according to the user’s decisions. After these decisions have been made by the user, however, there is little that can be done to reverse them.
There is also controversy surrounding user privacy when it comes to the geographical location tracking accompanying any post where a user “checks-in” or allows their device to track their location. Burglaries and other privacy invasions have occurred from increasing other people’s knowledge of a user’s whereabouts. Users who are not friends sometimes have the capacity to see posts without straightforward consent.
In a recent interview, Adrienne Lafrance reports, “there are many issues to unpack here and one of them is sort of the extent to which this manipulation has to do with consent.” Speaking specifically about a study (lacking approval from IRB), which manipulated user news feeds to assess user emotion, Lafrance reveals the bigger issue of “lead[ing] people to experience emotions without their awareness.” This argument of user manipulation without consent pinpoints the importance of discussing how user data is used, by whom, and for what reasons.
While these changes bring about additional questions of how signing on to this new policy will affect users, the real question becomes: How much control should a company, like Facebook, have on an individual’s privacy decisions online? Or does online privacy simply not exist?