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Facebook and Twitter: Privacy Policy Research Paper


Introduction

Social networks and media provide a range of services enabling businesses to increase their visibility on the Web and thus gain the customers’ loyalty more easily; their initial purpose, however, is instant connectivity among the users. The average Facebook user has around 200-300 friends, which facilitates the creation of the so-called “weak ties” – just the kind of connections that allow people to get easier access to resources (Morgan, 2016).

Benefits aside, repeated conflicts of privacy involving social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter have become a serious issue. The present work is, therefore, focused on the privacy policies of Twitter and Facebook. It seeks to build a case on these two networks, compare, analyze, and evaluate their privacy policies. The popularity of the networks, and the fact that they collect so much data, constitute the rationale for choosing Facebook and Twitter as the objects for the present research.

Facebook & Twitter: Overview, Privacy Policies, and Privacy Issues

In this part, an overview of the networks’ usage and policies is presented, along with the issues the users can face, either knowingly or inadvertently.

Overview

Although the users of Facebook can just as well post to Twitter on a daily basis, the outreach of the networks can diversify. Facebook is growing in popularity among the senior population (4% of persons 65 and over are active Facebook users), while Twitter is most commonly utilized by people aged 25-34 (Wolfe, 2016). Other statistical data available on the networks indicate that 15% of all adult population of the U.S. are Twitter users, with 8% of these tweeting/scrolling the network every day (Wolfe, 2016). The fact that Twitter is less advert-ridden than Facebook can explain such user devotion. Other points of distinction concern the websites’ interfaces, basic tools and functions, and privacy policies.

Privacy Policies

By registering their accounts on either Twitter or Facebook, users are forming contracts with these networks. The users are required to accept the Terms of Service and Privacy Policies, the texts of which are provided in full. The users state their consent that some data will be collected from them – mainly what they provide to the networks such as names, passwords, e-mails, and phone numbers. The networks receive the information posted by this user themselves or shared by their friends (e.g., via tagging). The networks claim that the users still own (and are responsible for) all the information they share; however, the right to use the content is granted to the network (Data Policy, 2016; Twitter Privacy Policy, 2016).

Privacy Issues

The “ownership” of the posted and shared data that Facebook and Twitter grant is an issue in itself. For example, Facebook’s statement of rights and responsibilities implies that anyone on the web (search engines and advertisers included) can export and distribute the posts (Data Policy, 2016). In other words, on default settings, a person’s information can be used by other parties without their consent (Luckerson, 2014). In turn, Twitter claims not to pass on the data other than to third-party providers, legal agencies, and aggregated data services (Twitter Privacy Policy, 2016). Apart from the data provided by users, the networks use all IP-related information they can obtain (locations, cookies, etc.), contact information, and phone text messaging (Twitter Privacy Policy, 2016).

Analysis and Evaluation

In this part, the privacy policies of the companies will be analyzed and evaluated by the ease of access and understandability to users, default settings adequacy, and security.

Facebook

Understandability

At Facebook, they evidently value the importance of Terms of Use and Privacy Policy being understandable to the users. This is not to say that the company’s practices are agreeable, but the corresponding sections on the website literally account for every piece of information being used (Steinmetz, 2016). The user can consult the section any time they want and make adjustments.

Default settings

Although the Terms and Policies mentioned above outline practically any interaction, the user has, the default settings make their information open to anyone within the network. To secure one’s account, one needs to undertake a number of steps and adjust the information to their needs. The adjustments may include the groups of users able to see the posted data, tagging options, past posts, contacts, and more (Data Policy, 2016).

Security

Facebook retains the right to preserve all the data shared by the users: posts, tags, likes, private messages, etc., even if the said user deletes their account and/or message history. The Sponsored Story was removed after a scandal arose concerning users’ faces and accounts appearing in adverts without them knowing – but still, the ad platforms Facebook cooperates with can tell the users’ friends where and what for they shop online.

The cookies used to allow the network to keep the dates, time, and URLs that the user browses if these sites have a Facebook plugin (e.g., a “share” button). Users can change the settings and limit the groups of people who can tag them, but Facebook can still use facial recognition to locate users in pictures. Finally, like Twitter, Facebook conceals the frequency and the volume of data it allows legal services to access (Luckerson, 2014). Such a long list of insecure practices speaks of the network as potentially harmful for the users’ privacy.

Twitter

Understandability

Unlike Facebook, Twitter’s Terms, and Policy lack clarity. Experts and observers state that it would be difficult for an average user to get to the bottom of the Policy, which is why they are likely to either skip it or cease using the network whatsoever (Steinmetz, 2015). For instance, Twitter states that it tracks the users’ interactions with links over the services they provide but fail to denote what exactly is meant by each interaction (Steinmetz, 2015).

Default settings

Unlike Facebook, the posts on Twitter can be either public or private. The default settings make every new user’s account public, which means that everyone on the Web can view their posts. While Facebook provides many additional settings to make posts visible only to certain groups of people, Twitter opts for maximum visibility.

Security

As said, a user’s posts on Twitter are searchable by tags and via search engines. Additionally, like Facebook, Twitter can track the users’ browsing by date and time if they browse pages with a “tweet” button. The network claims that the tracking is done for recommendations. For that same purpose, Twitter uses targeted ads, keeps lists of all applications a user has on their smartphone, and, like Facebook, tracks the users’ locations and phone contacts (Twitter Privacy Policy, 2016). Unlike Facebook, however, the presence of adverts is more understandable because of Twitter’s public platform policy, rather than that of a social network. Besides, the company lets its users opt-out of targeted ads and e-mails quite easily.

Conclusions

So far, Twitter has shown itself more sensitive to the users’ privacy concerns. Although the content is visible all over the Web, the users can adjust their experience thanks to the opt-in – opt-out policy Twitter uses. Facebook states its policies and terms more distinctly and covers all aspects of usage. However, the default settings make the accounts quite vulnerable from the start.

Users of both networks have to understand that the best way to protect their privacy on the Internet is to abstain from using it at all (Moran, 2015). When they decide to enjoy the networks, they have to go with the services’ requirements. The security of the networks is, thus, more reliant on the optimizability of the settings and the number of functions than on anything else. At that, Twitter appears to be more advantageous simply because its functions are more limited: unlike Facebook, it has no polls or groups, and the targeted ads only include promoted tweets and accounts, in contrast to Facebook’s banners, videos, and referrals.

Many privacy problems arise because the Terms of Use and Privacy Policies remain unread when a new user decides to join a network. The most obvious recommendation for users, therefore, would be to read the Terms carefully and decide whether they feel the benefits of the networks outweigh the potential hazards. Facebook’s terms are formulated more comprehensibly, although that does not nullify the privacy threat. Rather, it means that Facebook promotes responsible decision-making among the users and provides them with all necessary information to make their network experience at least partially secure.

References

Data Policy. (2016). Web.

Luckerson, V. (2014). . Web.

Moran, N. (2015). Consumer Information in the Digital Age. Northridge, CA: California State University, Northridge.

Morgan, J. (2016). . Web.

Steinmetz, K. (2015). . Web.

. (2016). Web.

Wolfe, L. (2016). Twitter vs. Facebook, Which Is Better? Web.

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IvyPanda. (2020, October 15). Facebook and Twitter: Privacy Policy. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/facebook-and-twitter-privacy-policy/

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"Facebook and Twitter: Privacy Policy." IvyPanda, 15 Oct. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/facebook-and-twitter-privacy-policy/.

1. IvyPanda. "Facebook and Twitter: Privacy Policy." October 15, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/facebook-and-twitter-privacy-policy/.


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IvyPanda. "Facebook and Twitter: Privacy Policy." October 15, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/facebook-and-twitter-privacy-policy/.

References

IvyPanda. 2020. "Facebook and Twitter: Privacy Policy." October 15, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/facebook-and-twitter-privacy-policy/.

References

IvyPanda. (2020) 'Facebook and Twitter: Privacy Policy'. 15 October.

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