The rules behind Facebook and its Privacy laws

By Brittany Dempster

It is no surprise that thousands of Canadian teens have either a Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram account—or all three. In fact, statistics from states Canadians spend an average of 7.7 hours per month engaging on social networks. The data also shows that 22 per cent of teenagers log on to Facebook more than 10 times a day. With this much interaction on social media, it’s no surprise that many teens unknowingly put their privacy at risk.

In fact, according to Ian Vo, an expert on the ways teens are giving away their privacy, says people rarely ever read the Terms of Service (ToS) information on social media websites before hitting the “agree” button, which informs people what exactly they’re getting themselves into. “And with Facebook, you’re getting yourself into a lot more than you bargained for,” Vo commented. What he’s referring to is Facebook’s right and ability to use personal data. In other words, while teens obliviously interact on the site, Facebook reserves the right to use their data, including using a person’s name to advertise new features to people on their friend’s list. In addition, Vo also said a teen’s habits, tendencies, likes, friends and other personal information are “stored and backed up for all intents and purposes.” For instance, Vo says Facebook secretly used him in an advertisement to promote a certain feature. “A few years ago, they tried very heavily to push a “find more friends” feature. If I’m not letting my friends and family get unrestricted access to all of my e-mail, I’m definitely not letting Facebook. However, that wasn’t going to stop Facebook from telling all of them (family and friends) I had, in fact, used this feature, and they should too.”

Vo’s situation also illustrates how teens are unknowingly giving away their privacy through what they “like” on Facebook. Potential employers and college administrators can view all likes made by a teen, according to Vo. While simply liking a photo, comment or post on a friend’s page may seem harmless, Vo says teens must be aware that when they like something they are “making a very public statement about themselves.”

So what can we do to help protect our teens’ privacy on Facebook? Vo suggests parents walk their teens through scenarios and ask them questions to help understand the dangers that exist: What would you do if Facebook started using your face to advertise something? Or what would you do if you said something mean and your whole school heard it?

Teens should always be conscious while interacting on Facebook whether they’re posting a picture or status update, liking a status or an image, because these activities may be used against them in the future or be taken out of context, according to Vo. “Teens are at an extremely vulnerable point in their lives for a variety of reasons (and) their future is highly dependent on not making too many critical mistakes at this age.”