J003-Content-Is-Facebook-dangerous_SQI love Facebook – but I don’t trust it. Yes I am aware of all those studies saying that for a happier life you should give up Facebook, but I personally love knowing what friends and family are up to. What I don’t love is Facebook knowing what I am up to, with whom I speak, and what I am all about.

Many have already been raising these concerns but before I get into the nitty gritty, it is worth noticing the deep hooks Facebook has into our lives such that way more than a modicum of caution is appropriate.

One of the biggest dangers is coming from location information with photos and personal information. This is ideal for stalkers. That is apparently what happened to Tony Harris who made the mistake of posting a picture of his wife, her hands struggling to hold onto (USD) $60,000 in cash. It didn’t take long for three violent criminals to track the couple down in a home invasion that ended with Harris dead from a gunshot to the head. The sorry irony is that most of the money was simply one dollar bills and not $60,000 as mentioned in the Facebook post.

Up to a few months ago Facebook Messenger had really cranked up the creep factor.

The system can track the exact location of mobile users through the phone’s GPS. It would then share the location with anyone you were chatting with. It was child’s play to go to that precise location, whether the intent was evil or benign, and someone had even created a map to show the exact location in a bid to show Facebook how invasive it all was. Facebook has since then stopped showing the exact location but this just goes to show how vulnerable users can be.

Tip: Think carefully if you want to have your location tracked on your phone, and check your policies settings for Facebook. These goes for many other apps on your phone. Make sure you only activate those permissions you feel 100% comfortable with.

The depth of Facebook knowledge

What’s also scary is the in-depth profiles Facebook or its partners can make of you. Watch Dogs, a video game – now in beta – based its operation on things it learns about you through Facebook. The good news is you have to opt-in in order for the game maker to collect your data.

The bad news is just how much information is out there and how it could be abused.

Ubisoft is the game maker, and in its game promo, Digital Shadow, shows how it uses your friends, newsfeed, photos, etc. to customize game play to you. For instance, it knows where you are, and even tries to guess your password (which might actually be a good thing as it is a reminder to make sure passwords are appropriately complex).

The game actually tells you the value of your Facebook data – which can reach into the tens of thousands of US dollars for the average user – value the end user never realizes.

Tip: Make sure your passwords are complex and also make sure you don’t share information wouldn’t normally share with a stranger. Facebook has made it amply clear for you to choose who can see the content you share…

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Tip of the iceberg

If you think Facebook knows a lot about you now, just wait. The company is inventing a quasi-artificial brain that mimics your own and can act as an assistant, going through all your newsfeeds and comments and sorting them so you don’t have to.

Sounds good, but what if that “brain” is shared with others, sold to marketers – or purloined by hackers. It could certainly turn into some scary stuff.

Tip: If something sounds too good to be true, it just might be. While such a virtual brain may be years off, think very carefully if this is something you want to be a part of.

I love Facebook, but I don’t like certain things it does like asking for my cell phone number “for my own safety” and selling my profile data to third parties. We can all hope the social media giant will listen to concerns about privacy and doesn’t decide to go too far.