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Like many Web sites that collect user information, the aforementioned social networking Web sites have privacy policies. However, there are some problems. These policies are disclaimers produced by a Web site, that become waivers once the user accepts them. By accepting the terms of the policy, the user volunteers to relinquish some known right or privilege they may have. If a user felt the Web site had broken promises it made in the privacy policy, it is doubtful that the user could sue the Web site for breach of contract on the basis of the policy. These policies also contain loopholes. Problems with these policies include a lack of visibility, insufficient information on how the Web sites change their policies, the lack of independent reviewers to monitor these Web sites, and unspecific details of whom the Web sites share user information.

One problem is that these policies are difficult for users to find and read. Although reading these policies is part of the registration process, they may not be specified on the registration form. The privacy policy may just be mentioned in the Terms of Use of a Web site. Providing users with a box to tick to indicate they have read and accepted a privacy policy is not enough. All three Web sites should make their privacy policies more obvious and users need should be encouraged by the Web sites to actively read through what they are agreeing to.

Another problem with privacy policies is that they are fluid, and may be altered by the Web site. All of these Web sites state that from time to time changes may be made to their privacy policies, which will be posted on the site. It is never specified how long these changes would be posted for, or where. Notice alone is not enough. The changes should be explained to users, along with any specific results the changes incur. Another manifestation of this problem is that not only can terms change, but Web sites can also reset user preferences, and place them back at default level.

The only one of these sites to overtly use a third party to review its privacy policy is Facebook. Facebook pays to be a licensee of the TRUSTe Privacy Program. However, TRUSTe's program suffers several flaws. In the past, TRUSTe has not punished their licensees who have, in TRUSTe's own opinion, compromised consumer trust and privacy. TRUSTe has even been described as untrustworthy by certain commentators.

These policies are also unclear about the terms by which users' details are shared with third parties. Facebook, MySpace and Friendster affirm that the user can choose to share information with marketers through sponsored groups or other on-site offers, such as competitions or sweepstakes. The Web sites reserve the right to transfer personal information to a successor in interest that acquires rights to that information as a result of the sale of the Web site. They state that they will not share users' contact information with marketers without your permission. Facebook and MySpace assert that the user can tell when another company is involved in any store or service provided, and they establish that they may share customer information with that company in connection with the member's use of that store or service. However, they do not specify how it would be so clear to the user when another company is involved. MySpace may transfer personal information to certain ad partners, if the user has explicitly requested to receive information from these ad partners. How a user would go about doing this is vague though. The Web sites do not elaborate on what information they provide to advertisers in aggregate usage information, nor do they note the potential for third parties to disaggregate the information. Privacy policies, like all agreements, should be clear and easy to follow, so that users have a firm grasp on what they are signing-up to. Unfortunately, Web sites' privacy policies, and terms of use often seem overly cross-referenced. Users need to do a great deal of switching between the two in order to get all the details, and definitions. This makes the task of reading through the information more difficult than it needs to be.
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