Editorial: Facebook settlement reminds us to protect information

Editorial Board

Ever since social networking sites gained popularity among, well, nearly everyone, the question of online privacy on sites such as Facebook has entered the public eye. After a few too many run-ins with angry users and some questionable privacy settings, Facebook has settled a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission regarding user privacy violations.

In the settlement, Facebook is required to undergo privacy audits by an independent third-party every two years for the next two decades.

Most of the FTC’s complaint related to Facebook changing its website privacy models without informing users. Information that was once private was made public without notification. Under the terms of the settlement, Facebook must now get permission from users before they alter the visibility of a user’s personal information.

We are students applying for scholarships, internships, professional jobs, graduate school, or other professional positions in this age of the internet. We must be mindful of how we present ourselves on social networking sites and the information contained therein.

Keeping your information protected on the internet goes beyond making sure nothing embarrassing pops up when you’re trying to make a good impression. Information posted on social sites like Facebook can also be used to steal your identity or plan a robbery when you leave for vacation.

The current Facebook privacy settings can be set to “public,” “friends” or a customized option for status updates and photos. Further privacy settings can alter things such as who can look up your information, who can write on your wall, or who sees which apps you use.

Most people don’t give much consideration to the privacy settings that Facebook automatically assigns their profile. The default for many settings is public — everyone can see your information. Unless you specifically go into the privacy controls and change this, your personal information is visible to the world.

While Facebook will continue to address user concerns about privacy issues as they arise with new changes to the website in the future, it is the responsibility of each person to make sure that their own information is secure and they are satisfied with their visibility on the site.

No one will baby-sit your private information on the internet, and even if you restrict access to only those that you have friended. Continue to be cautious about identifying information. Often we add acquaintances to our circle of friends without knowing much about them, entrusting little more than strangers with our profiles.

Facebook will be doing their part by participating in privacy audits, but users must take responsibility for securing their own information as well. Like many things, it simply comes down to being smart about what you reveal. Next time you log in, take a minute to check your privacy settings and information before posting that next status.