By Quentin Fottrell
Status updates and photos deleted from Facebook might not escape the prying eyes of the site’s data trackers.
As the social media giant prepares its new “Statement of Rights and Responsibilities,” experts say the company is seeking new ways to squeeze more value out of its users. Items deleted from the site will still be available to Facebook for a time – much the way files sent to the recycle bin on a PC aren’t truly erased — bad news for those who want to immediately remove intemperate or even self-incriminating comments. “You understand that removed content may persist in backup copies for a reasonable period of time,” the policy states.
Just as investigators for the social network have reportedly retrieved long-lost emails Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg wrote during his days at Harvard University – to be used in a motion by Facebook to dismiss a 2010 lawsuit brought by Paul Ceglia alleging ownership of 50% of Zuckerberg’s stake in the company – the photos, thoughts and opinions of the 850 million users will linger in a cyber vault. (A spokesman for Facebook says the data will be deleted within 90 days.)
To be sure, exactly how much such data are worth remains largely unknown. Steve Frenda, managing director of strategy and development at marketing firm Path to Purchase Institute, says the IPO will give some indication of the value of its 850 million users. But, the value of a Facebook account obviously depends on how forthcoming an individual is online. Michael Fertik, CEO and founder of Reputation.com, estimates one Facebook profile could be worth $100 to $1,000, depending on how much information is shared and how much disposable income they have.
Despite Facebook’s attempts to simplify its policies, others say they remain as complex as ever. “The problem with privacy policies is that most of them are virtually indecipherable,” says John M. Simpson, director of Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project, a California-based non-profit organization. “Most people don’t even try to read them.” Jules Polonetsky, director of the Future of Privacy Forum, a Washington, D.C., says less than 1% of people read privacy policies or ads — so Facebook needs to find a way to make money from the wealth of information people share about themselves. “It’s not a lot of money for the user,” Polonetsky says, “but it does end up as a lot for Facebook.”