Friday, August 27, 2010

To Share or Not to Share...

Social networking sites are popping up all over. Almost all of them are free- at least that is what we are led to believe. I have been around long enough to know Nothing is Free. That is almost always the case. Twitter was created with the idea that it would provide added revenue to cell phone carriers. You see 140 characters is the exact length of a standard text message. Most people had their Twitter accounts set-up so when you got a Tweet, it would be forwarded to your cell phone and you would get charged a fee. Now most people have unlimited text messaging or use Smartphone Twitter apps so that revenue stream has become limited.

Facebook is an entirely different animal and they make money in many different ways. One way is through third party apps that access your personal information and your list of friends. Most people freely give permission for these apps to access their personal info because they believe the product or service is worth it. What they do not know is that these third party companies can and do use this information to market to you and your friends on Facebook. This is most alarming to me.

Facebook is the most valuable source for personal information there is. Where else do you disclose your: relationship status, job, hobbies, education, personal photos and religious and political views? That is why Facebook data is SO valuable to many companies. In my opinion, you should lock down your account so you normally only share with friends. There are also ways to create groups. That way you decide who gets to see what.

If you haven't learned by now, remember this. Anything you post on the internet stays on the internet and can be reposted by others. In other words, don't say anything you do not want repeated or reposted. The same goes for your photos. Think twice before you post photos of friends drinking or doing something that could be embarrassing to them. These images can be taken out of context and can be a liability, especially when looking for a job.

Speaking about images, it is important to read and understand the TOS when you sign up for ANY free service. Facebook has some surprising Terms of Service.
Facebook Terms of Service
You need to read this- seriously. READ ALL OF IT!

From Facebook:

"You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared through your privacy and application settings. In addition:
  1. For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos ("IP content"), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to yourprivacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook ("IP License"). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with "
What does this mean? Well, if you do nothing with your settings and use the Default privacy and ad settings, you will be giving permission for Facebook to repost and essentially sell your photos and video to third parties! What? Why would they do that? The answer is because they can. They have to make money and they know that most people don't read those TOS agreements. 

"What should I do?" you ask. Should you stop posting photos and videos to Facebook? That is what some people would tell you to do, but you don't have to go live in a cave and become a paranoid shut-in. Simply follow the instructions on "how" to set your privacy settings that Facebook provides. You do not have to give Facebook permission to use your photos and video for free in order to use their service. You DO have to Opt Out by customizing your privacy settings. 

If you do not share your photos or video with "Everyone", your content is not going to be given to third parties. If you do share photos/video with "Everyone", you can still eliminate the possibility of them being used in ads by going to Account> Account Settings> Facebook Ads and selecting "No One" for both "Allow ads" and "Show Social Actions in Facebook Ads". Be sure to have a look at your Application Settings to make sure only the apps. you select have access to the information you choose.

If you want to minimize the possibility of someone reposting your photos or videos without permission, add a watermark with your name and web address to your photos and include your name in the credits on your videos. It is a federal crime to remove copyright information from a photo.

Anything you post on the web can be stolen or reposted. I would rather people see my work than keep it on my computer. The images you post on Facebook are low resolution so they cannot be used for publication. I always put my photo credit info on images I want to protect. 

So to share or not to share? I say share- but read the terms of service before you go giving away all your rights. Unfortunately, they don't always inform you of the consequences of the default settings of Facebook. Be smart and take control of your content and your social networking! 

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