Evaluating Online Privacy
Anytime I teach a class on social networks the conversation always turns to privacy at some point. It doesn't matter if we're talking about Facebook, Google, Twitter or any other site - people are always concerned about how companies may use our personal information. While talking about privacy is very important, it is also hard to make generalizations because every website has their own unique policies. These policies can also change, which makes it hard to keep track of when you participate in multiple social media websites. Luckily there is a way to evaluate and compare privacy settings thanks to a website called Privacyscore.
Privacyscore does the work of reading user agreements and policies to find out the privacy risk of websites and apps. Privacy risk is defined as, "the chance that data about you will be used or shared in ways that you wouldn't expect." It creates a score out of 100 and details any of the privacy risks associated with a website or app. As a potential user, this helps us understand the risk of joining and website and take any necessary steps to help protect our privacy. It is also handy for when websites or apps change policies.
Keep in mind that a mark for a website does not mean that any affiliated apps or games have the same score. Facebook does very well with a score of 94, but any games like Farmville would have their own privacy settings. Just because Facebook has a high score does not mean that your personal information is protected. A site like Facebook also has different allows users to change their settings, so the default setting may not be the one that leaves you most protected. I also want to stress that privacy does not equate with Internet safety. Twitter has a perfect score for privacy, but there are still malacious programs hidden within links from either fake or hacked Twitter accounts.
No website will ever be completely safe. A website like Privacyscore is meant to be a tool, not a guide. A website may be given a high rating, but not everyone will feel comfortable with using a site. As Internet users, we have to find our own comfort levels within social networks.