Trade-offs in Privacy and Social Networks

Facebook continues to be in the news with more user privacy concerns. This time, Android users have discovered that Facebook has detailed information about their call history, including names, phone numbers, and the length of each call made or received. That’s a lot of personal information!

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Facebook responded to these claims, stating that none of this call metadata is collected without the user’s permission. And this is true, sort of. Due to the way Android handled permissions in the past, these permissions were given without explicit notification to the user. This means Android users may have been sharing this information with Facebook without realizing it.

Each time you install an app, you are prompted to approve access to certain areas of your mobile device. In past versions of the Android operating system (prior to Jellybean), if you granted Facebook permission to your contacts, it also included permissions to your call and message logs. Today, that has been changed and two separate prompts exist for contacts and call and message logs.

With the Cambridge Analytica scandal and now this, many users are feeling frustrated and unsure about how to balance their privacy and social connections on Facebook. If you’re curious about what you have shared with Facebook since your account was created, download your data. This will give you the full picture of your shared data and, from there, you can work to edit permissions and protect your privacy more robustly going forward.

Remember, Facebook is designed to share information, their mission statement is “to bring people closer together.” Personal connections are important, but this doesn’t mean you can’t protect your privacy, you’ll just have to work harder to do so. Check your Facebook settings regularly and carefully review the permissions you authorize on the Facebook app and other social media apps.

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