The issue of social networking and privacy has been a harrowing issue for several years and it’s easy to see why. With social networking users creating profiles at the young age of twelve [and even younger], the security of keeping them safe on the internet is becoming more and more into a nightmare. But when it comes to online privacy and not keeping users safe, who is actually to blame? Well depending on who’s asking, it’s the corporations, businesses, and websites. If you ask me, it’s us…the people.
We live in a culture where people’s lives can be tracked minute by minute through pictures, status updates, and tweets, which you can update anywhere, at any time. With such ease of access, it is very easy for users to inform their followers and friends of what they’re doing from the time they wake up in the mornings to the time they close their eyes at night. People share so much online: names, birthdays, credit card numbers, and thoughts. It is becoming easier and easier for a user’s privacy to be evaded.
It is easy to forget that personal online blogs are still online blogs and that anything put in cyberspace is still open to the public. Let’s be honest, no one reads that screen that says ‘I have read and understand the rules and agreement’. Truth be told, that is one of the biggest mistakes social media users make; not reading the privacy page that pops up before they click the ‘next’ button. If you take the time to read the privacy pages of social networks and websites, you will find out that what you think is considered private, may not actually be the case. We all know that sites have privacy policies, but most are changing them so fast, that it’s hard for a user to keep up or even remain aware about. For example, in 2010, Twitter began archiving users tweets; from their very first tweet to their most recent tweet. Policy changes and new “upgrades” such as this makes it easier for employers, academic professionals, and yes, strangers, to find out about your personal posts that you thought were only available to your family and friends.
Here’s a story to bring the situation a little closer to home. A friend of mine [who is completely harmless and wouldn’t harm a fly] was angry at her universities financial aid department for dropping her classes before her financial aid went through. She took her anger to Twitter and tweeted “[insert name of school here] is so full of sh*t…I’m just ready to blow this school up.” Within hours of pressing the send button, she got a phone call from the universities police station asking to meet with her the following day to discuss a ‘potential terrorist attack’. She met with an officer and the dean of student safety and they explained to her how serious her tweet was, and was placed on the school’s safety ‘supervision’ list [which is the list where officials periodically check an offender’s social media sites to see if terrorist like things have been posted]. Shortly after the meeting, my friend deleted her Twitter and Facebook account; but the damage was done, her tweet had already been seen, registered, and put under investigation. The interesting thing about the whole situation is that her Twitter and Facebook account were private and only she could allow outsiders in through the use of accepting requests. So how did they find her? What does that say about a user’s privacy?
This story alone says so much about how a user’s privacy is used or protected, is totally up to them. True, you can set certain privacy settings on your account, but that doesn’t mean much of anything anymore. If hackers are able to crack through any and every password and firewall, so can anyone else. The user can’t always put the blame on the website. The website doesn’t force us to tweet certain things, upload certain pictures, update certain statuses, and even share information; that power lies within us.
But I’m only one person…what do you think? Agree? Disagree? Do you think as users, other steps can be taken towards protecting our privacy? Do we have to settle for the options given to us on websites?
I found this on a YouTube. I definitely don’t know how to upload video‘s in a text post, but I thought this was pretty interesting and added more clarification, in my opinion.