TAMPA - For many, having a Facebook page is a necessity. USF student Gary Ivanov says he can't imagine deleting his account.
"I use it to stay connected to friends. If I didn't have Facebook, it would be really hard to stay in touch," he said.
But anyone who uses Facebook should also know how Facebook is using them.
"The public is largely unaware of what Facebook can do with their information," said David Jacobs, of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, or EPIC.
Based in Washington, D.C., the privacy group has filed complaints over Facebook's alleged violations of its users' privacy.
"Facebook has amassed a vast amount of personal information, and it's going to try to monetize that information," Jacobs said.
Just take a look at the ads on the right side of your Facebook page. Chances are, they are targeted to you based on information you've posted. Facebook uses your age, location, education, and interests to target ads to you.
Some users are concerned about whether they retain the rights to their photos and posts. Jacobs says users have the rights to their photos, but Facebook does reserve the right to use users' content in a limited capacity. Typically, that means that Facebook and other businesses that deal with Facebook hope to learn more about your shopping habits. Facebook's data usage policies state that they do provide businesses with consumer information, but remove all identifying information, such as names, before providing it.
One of the most common ways businesses obtain your personal information is when you click the "like" button on another page. Once you "like" a page, whether it is a business, a product, or a restaurant, they have the ability to post on your news feed. They can also post on your friends' news feeds, and collect information about you.
Jacobs and other privacy advocates are concerned that all of the data Facebook and other businesses have collected could be stolen or used against its users.
"This information might be used for phishing attacks or might be compromised," Jacobs said.
The good news is that managing privacy on Facebook is easier than it has been in the past. The privacy settings, found in the top right corner of the page, can limit what strangers can see on your page. You can also un-like pages you have liked, reducing the number of people who can access your information. Many users don't regularly check their privacy settings, especially since Facebook has changed its policies so many times.
"I know the settings are confusing, at least for me," Ivanov said.
You might also find your photos being used to advertise products without your knowledge. This is part of Facebook's "Sponsored Stories" feature. When you "like" a page, Facebook may post on your friends' pages that you "liked" the page, using your profile photo to identify you. Facebook recently settled a class action lawsuit regarding this practice, and users across the country are being notified that they can file a claim for a check. However, the most they can obtain from Facebook is just $10.
To read Facebook's full data use policy, follow this link: https://www.facebook.com/full_data_use_policy
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