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Using Social Media for Career Advancement: Traditional networking for career advancement can be enhanced through the use of new social media that facilitate online networking. Follow this link for a compilation of advice from About.com's various guides to Jobs and Careers on using these tools to maximum advantage. Additionally, you should take note of best practices regarding Facebook privacy, many of which are applicable to other social media. This is vital information that you should not overlook, even if you are highly competent technically.

Consumer Reports Recommendations: Consumer Reports recounts the story of a software security professional, no less, whose Facebook picture was being used by someone else on an online dating site. It seems that the picture thief had friends in common with the security professional, which gave the former backdoor access to the latter's profile, through what Facebook calls "sharing a network." See "Social insecurity: What millions of online users don't know can hurt them," June 2010.

Among Consumer Reports' recommendations are:

  • Never put your full birthdate in a profile.
  • Never mention that you will be away from home at a specified time.
  • Do not allow search engines to find you. See that the box for public search results is not checked.
  • Do not click on compact (tiny) URLs unless you know and trust the sender. They frequently mask malicious sites.
  • Also think twice about using any software applications (apps) that are available on sites like Facebook, even seemingly benign ones that offer quizzes and games. Many are fronts for spyware and malware. Consumer Reports estimates that 1.8 million computers were infected through such apps in the year prior to its article.

Press Reports on Facebook Privacy Concerns: Additionally, Forbes magazine reports that Facebook is an increasingly popular tool for corporate espionage (see "The Spy Who Liked Me," November 21, 2011). Working under false identities, industrial spies will seek to befriend the right people online and cajole confidential business information out of them, in manners similar to those employed by identity thieves.

In recent years, the Financial Times has run a steady stream of articles, including several on page one, and commentary pieces (most notably "Facebook's open disdain for privacy" by John Gapper, May 14, 2010) discussing Facebook's progressive weakening of privacy protections and the mounting criticism thereof from regulators in the United States, Canada and Europe. Wall Street Journal articles include "Facebook Grapples With Privacy Issues" (May 19, 2010), which discusses the growing number of websites upbraiding Facebook for its policies and for technical glitches that repeatedly expose supposedly private data, such as by misrouting private messages and chats.

On May 22, 2010, The Economist examined the topic with both a leader (that is, in Economist parlance, an editorial, "Dicing with data") and an article ("Privacy and the internet: Lives of others") that take both Facebook and Google to task over privacy. All this reportage hit a peak when the Financial Times ran page one articles entitled "Facebook caves in to critics with plans to tighten privacy settings" (May 24, 2010) and "Facebook backtracks on privacy controls" (May 27, 2010). Meanwhile, the satirical faux newspaper The Onion weighed in with its own swipe at Facebook, in its own pithy way (follow the link to read it).

The FTC Sanctions Facebook: More importantly, in November 2011 the United States Federal Trade Commission issued a formal reprimand of Facebook for "unfair and deceptive practices" and put the company, in effect, on probation for 20 years, during which time it will be subject to regular privacy audits. The FTC probe revealed that Facebook has regularly shared personal data with advertisers, contrary to its repeated claims that it does not. Future privacy violations will be costly for Facebook, since they will incur fines of $16,000 per day per count. (See "F.T.C. Settles Privacy Issue With Facebook," The New York Times, November 29, 2011).

Conclusion: The bottom line is that, while Facebook may be a useful tool for career advancement, you should use it with extreme care.

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