2004 and now is one of the world's popular website. Facebook has over 845 monthly active users and over 483 million daily active users. There are also 425 million mobile users (Protalinksi, 2012). The popularity of the site is so much that when security breaches occur, the private information of near one in every seven people in the world is at risk. With the site being a place where people keep their personal information, there is also the risk that this information becomes valuable to potential employers, though for all the wrong reasons. The open nature of Facebook means that people you do not know have access to the information. It is argued that people need to be careful when they use Facebook, and take care of their personal information.
How Facebook Works
Facebook's business model is to gather information about people and sell that information to marketers. This works because the website has created a space for people to interact with one another and share things about their daily lives with one another. This means that people voluntarily put the information onto Facebook. To help people maintain control of the information, Facebook allows its users to have a number of privacy settings. How these work changes frequently, and this confuses the users. In addition, it seems every feature has its own privacy settings. As a result, users often leave key information unprotected. This creates a privacy risk, but there are other types of privacy risks as well with Facebook that will also be discussed. But important is that even when the information is protected so that only friends can see it, Facebook still stores this data, and it stores data from accounts that are deleted. The result of this is that people's personal information still exists on the company's servers, and if those servers were ever hacked this sensitive information could be leaked to the world.
Personal Privacy Risks
Mui (2011) notes that "it is not just about what Facebook does with our data; we have to worry about what they might enable others to do, too." A study done by Carnegie Mellon University showed that Facebook's face recognition software for photographs made it possible for the researchers to identify people based on photographs of them elsewhere, even on protected sites. Anybody with a photo of another person could conceivably, with the right software, find out who that person is based on pictures of them on Facebook.
These risks are going to be even more significant with the rollout of Timeline. Brown (2012) reports that because Timeline is a public feature, more of your personal data is going to be released to the public. Worse, the Timeline seems to operate with different privacy settings again. Users who do not keep their privacy settings up-to-date will find that certain things will appear on their timeline that they wanted to be kept private. It is noted that there is a saying "nothing on the Internet is private." A company like Facebook cannot guarantee privacy, even if all the controls are in place. This puts the onus on the user make sure that the information on Facebook is only the information that the person wants to be in public. Many people, especially younger people, are unaware of the risks and they are unaware of reputational issues that can occur.
Of the biggest areas were Facebook poses a risk to a person is in job searching. Facebook is increasingly being used by companies to help weed out candidates. That means that employers are going onto a job candidate's Facebook page with the specific intent of finding something that is a reason to exclude that person from the job. It is noted that while the practice is on the increase, job-seekers generally oppose it. Indeed, 66% of Generation Y survey respondents were unaware that companies even used Facebook to check out job applicants, and 56% thought that the practice was unfair (Du, 2012).
The situation is so alarming now that some employers are now asking job applicants for their Facebook user names and passwords to check out their accounts themselves. This way, the employer has access to material that is not on the public profile. Other times the employer will make a friend request to the applicant. This practice is highly alarming, but it is not illegal, and the employer basically makes it a condition of employment (Favate, 2012). This can only happen because employers know that most people, especially young people, have a Facebook account, and that on that account there is private information. More alarming is the idea that they only want access to the account to find out something negative about a job applicant. The practice raises significant ethical issues, but until it is made illegal simply having a Facebook account and wanting a job could result in you being asked to surrender all of your privacy rights.
One of the lines of work that uses Facebook the most in applicant screening is law enforcement. The law enforcement community has long been a keen user of Facebook in order to identify criminals and learn about gang members. There are numerous examples of crimes that have been solved because the criminal posted something incriminating on Facebook. Law enforcement often subpoena Facebook for access to the accounts of suspected criminals, so that they can be tracked (Hill, 2012). Now clearly one should be worried about not being a criminal than any Facebook privacy violation, but there is the risk that law enforcement will target the Facebook account of an innocent person and that this will result in a privacy violation to that person.
If you did do something wrong, it is entirely possible that evidence found on your Facebook account could be used against you in a court. Even if there is no evidence, some of your Facebook friends could be contacted by police and coerced into testifying against you. Again, you probably should not commit crimes in the first place, but if you do, you may come to regret having a Facebook account when evidence from the account finds its way into the courtroom.
One has to consider that a lot of the information that is on Facebook is actually quite old. For example, when somebody posts something in high school or college that they might come to regret when they are older, that information is never really removed from the Facebook servers. Thus, that information could turn up later at a job search or some other inopportune time. Users have only limited control about the content that their Facebook account has, so there remains the risk that old items will remain available to people who want to violate your privacy. Even an item that was posted and removed could find its way to your timeline, for example, just in time for somebody to see it that you don't want to see it.
The porous nature of Facebook security is very much a concern. The main security risk that Facebook poses is simply through its existence. The amount of information that the site collects about its users is incredible, and that information is stored by Facebook in perpetuity. For users, that means that there is always a risk associated with having a Facebook account, or even if you only once had an account but cancelled it. It is important to remember that there are many ways having a Facebook account could come back to haunt you.
The different ways Facebook information from your account is used against you are just the tip of the iceberg. Government agencies could petition lawmakers to have access to people's Facebook accounts, so the next thing you know the IRS wants to talk to you, the INS does not like…