Does Facebook Show Contempt for User Privacy?

This is certainly something to think about when using social networking sites …

When Facebook announced at its f8 conference last month that it is making changes to its giant social networking site, I didn’t pay close enough attention.

I was aware the company was changing the way its site interacted with others on the Web. I also understood after logging into the site that Facebook was altering the way it displayed some of users’ personal information, including their educational background and interests.

But I overlooked the significance of those changes until last week, when a co-worker made me realize what they meant, and just how cavalier Facebook is with the privacy of its users.

As I’ve mentioned in past columns, I’m a big fan of Pandora Internet radio. Generally, if I’m listening to music on the radio, I’m tuned into one of my stations on Pandora, not a traditional broadcast radio channel. I’ve shared my stations with my wife and a few family members. But I never intended to share them — or my listening habits, including songs I’ve “liked” — with anyone else.

Thanks to Facebook’s changes, I suddenly was sharing them with a lot more people. My colleague showed me that when he went to Pandora and signed into Facebook using a new widget on the music site, he was able to see everything that I’d been listening to lately, including what songs I’ve given a thumbs-up. And it wasn’t just my Pandora activity he had access to. He could check in on the Pandora habits of any one of his friends on Facebook who also had a Pandora account.

After seeing this demonstration, alarm bells went off in my head over the privacy threats that Facebook’s changes pose.

It’s not that I particularly care if my colleague can see what music I’ve been listening to lately. But I have 635 Facebook “friends,” many of them…

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