How Facebook Sells Your Personal Information

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Facebook recently announced the limited beta release of Graph Search, a feature that will create a new way for people to navigate connections and search social networks.
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Location tagging is, in and of itself, another way to make you an attractive target to marketers. You're giving away information about which brick-and-mortar retailers you are likely to frequent, allowing for even more enhanced targeting.

So what are the limits when it comes to Facebook sharing members' personal data with advertisers and marketers? Do regulations prevent any of this sharing at all?

The issues are really being formed right now, said Allison Hobbs, an intellectual-property and copyright lawyer in New York.

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"Social media companies should not engage in deceptive or unfair trade practices," Hobbs said. "As far as end-user data is concerned, that means social media companies should honestly disclose what they plan to do with it. Usually, they do this through their Terms of Service or privacy statements.

"When they are not honest, the Federal Trade Commission, which regulates deceptive and unfair trade practices, may issue a complaint against them," Hobbs said. "In 2011, the FTC issued complaints against Google and Facebook; the result was that both parties are required to do privacy audits until 2032.

"So, it looks like the issue is being handled on a case-by-case basis, which may result in better rules than legislation or prophylactic regulation, since it is more likely to keep up with technological change."

Gaining Perspective

What can you do to help keep your personal data from becoming a marketing director's dream?

The best thing is to look at the data that you share on Facebook, and the data that your friends share about you, and take control over it all.

ANALYSIS: Footwear Meets Social Networking

Ask your friends not to tag you in any of their posts. When you find yourself in an unwanted photo, remember that you can always untag yourself.

You should always carefully read through any changes to Facebook's privacy policies. If worse comes to worst, you may have to decide whether you want to keep using Facebook at all.

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