Facebook has thrown up privacy issues, making personal data a free-for-all, unless you are smart enough to set things right

Make room for new worries on Facebook. Now it's not that people are spending too much time on it, playing Farmville and Mafia Wars. The latest concern of Facebook users is that of privacy.

With Facebook changing its layout ever so often and with regular social networkers dishing out their personal details more easily and readily than before, there seems to be a problem in controlling content that might be viewed and probably misused by completely random strangers.

Sunaina Anand, a college student says: “I have always been careful about who gets to view my profile but it was only recently that I realised the privacy settings on Facebook had changed and that if I didn't customize my list, just about any Facebook user would have access to my personal details and pictures.”

Her classmate Sulochana Ramakrishna who recently closed her Facebook account seems to have enough reason to do so. “Earlier, if one had a limited profile, a person adding him/her as a friend would not have access to their wall, information or albums until the person accepted the friend request. However, now people whose requests have not yet been confirmed have access to an unbelievably large amount of personal data, including status updates and new friend connections. This really freaked me out so I decided to get off Facebook.”

For 19-year-old Monalika who aspires to be a model someday, the story is quite different. “I had recently done a professional photoshoot for my portfolio and I had posted some of these pictures on my profile. The next thing I knew was that a classmate had my picture on his phone, which of course he sourced from Facebook by just clicking ‘copy image' on my photo, which he later must have saved on his PC before transferring it to his mobile. It was by chance I got to know of this. Otherwise one never knows how your details or pictures are being misused.”

Tagging pictures on social networking sites have caused grief to many a soul. If for instance one has been tagged by his friend in a picture, friends of the person as well as friends of that friend would be able to view that entire album. And this isn't the worst thing that could happen. If the friend who has tagged the picture doesn't have a limited profile, then anyone who merely looks him up on Facebook would get to view those pictures.

Age does play a role in helping secure personal data. Rani Mathew, a mother of two teenagers says: “It takes much longer for older people to understand how this whole system works. Most often, we depend on our kids to help us with nitty gritties like changing our privacy or account settings.”

Then there are also a gazillion applications like “Who is following you?” and games that one uses/plays on these sites that extract information of the person as well as that of his friends. So there is a grave danger here as such information is made available to a third party.

However, Manu Srinivas, a software engineer says: “Social networking is about revealing more about oneself in an online community. It is only to a certain extent these sites take care of one's privacy issues. But the situation calls for self regulation. One must ensure he does not make public the information he does not wish people to know.”

One of the good things about the new Facebook settings is that one can choose who can look him up on the site and whether or not his name appears as a Google search result.

The funny thing about social networking is that at the end of the day, most people believe the boons outweighing the banes.

And the growing number on Facebook is testimony enough of this fact!