MANILA - Over the last nine years, Facebook has grown from a small social networking site originally intended for college students into a worldwide platform that is now used not only by private users, but by some of the world's largest corporations.
In Asia, the Philippines currently tops the list of Facebook users with 30 million accounts and 92.2 per cent penetration rate.
However, with the enormous expansion and popularity of Facebook come increased concerns over the privacy it offers to its users. In fact, the extreme popularity of this social networking site makes it one of the most dangerous places on the Internet.
According to Kaspersky Lab, a developer of security and threat management solutions, it may be time to reevaluate your favourite social media channel and think about whether there is a need to deactivate or permanently delete your Facebook account to reduce the risk of a privacy breach.
But when do you actually deactivate or delete your Facebook account?
Privacy should be a key factor in considering if a Facebook account should be deleted, deactivated or if simple changes on account and privacy settings should only be made.
A recent incident was reported lately about the leak of information of at least six million users from Facebook.
It was faulted on a coding error in Facebook, which allowed unauthorised downloading of other people's information using Facebook's own Download Your Information (DYI) tool.
Facebook blocked the DYI tool as soon as the leakage was discovered. But when it's about the Internet, even a few minutes is already worth several days. Once leaked, the data is made public online forever.
"This is one of the demonstrations that even the best cloud services like Facebook are not flawless. Therefore, every user should have a plan of action in case of a crash," wrote Serge Malenkovich in the Kaspersky Lab Daily blog.
"As safe as one may feel with the privacy settings that they have set up for their accounts, one should always be aware of the dangers that lurk when it comes to sharing information on Facebook," added Kaspersky Lab Daily's Cassie Bodnar.
One major consideration in deleting a Facebook account is if a user is absolutely certain of what Facebook would be doing to information from their users. Facebook's Data Use Policy states it is constantly collecting your personal information to bring you better, more targeted advertising and to improve your overall user experience. But, in doing so, it may also be compromising your privacy.
Malenkovich suggested the following ways to protect information stored in social networking sites like Facebook:
- Use a trusted e-mail address to receive notifications from social networks. You'll need a separate email to communicate with your colleagues and friends. You also need another highly secure account to receive letters from your bank and other important institutions.
- Consider having a separate cell phone number for important information.
- There is always a possibility of error. If you made some post or photo to be viewed by "Friends" only or even "Private," it doesn't guarantee that no one will ever see it. It is best to share sensitive items in person, or by means of direct communication.
- If you store data in a cloud-based service like Facebook only for yourself, consider encrypting it.
Bryan Sat, Kaspersky Lab Business Development Manager for the Philippines, said an ordinary person could perform a simple encryption method using a very strong password for each web service or online account that one has.
"It is highly recommended to create unique and complicated passwords - a combination of upper- and lower-case letters, numerals and symbols- so there will be difficulty gaining unauthorised access to your account," Sat said.
Bodnar also added that if you feel that privacy is being compromised and may decide that it's time to delete the account, you can use these steps to do so:
There are two options when it comes to closing out Facebook profile: deactivation or deletion.
Deactivating the account will simply put everything on hold. When choosing this option, your Timeline will no longer be publically visible, but the information will remain stored within Facebook in case you choose to reactivate the account at a later time.
Kaspersky Lab reminds that if you decide to deactivate the account, the profile will still show up in user's friends' lists of friends, but it will be inaccessible once clicked on.
However, there are a few more items to consider when the decision for deletion is being considered. These include taking back all the information stored on personal accounts, which could amount to thousands of photos, videos, and important links.
It may take a month for the profile to actually disappear and up to 90 days for it to be removed from Facebook's computer system entirely. Once the profile is deleted there is no way to retrieve any of your information.
However, Facebook does offer the option to download a copy of your info before deletion, including your entire Timeline (posts, photos, messages etc.), an expanded archive and the activity log.
Sat reminds users to assess the consequences and benefits of deleting one's account. There are still many ways to protect information stored in Facebook, which only requires users' utmost attention to privacy settings.