Sunday, 9 October 2011

Privacy on Facebook

Friends and family have often asked me if I have a Facebook account so that they could add me to their friends. The answer is that I don't have a Facebook account now. I used to have one, though, just to keep in touch with my daughter when she moved to London for her university studies.  She had talked me into creating an account then claiming that it's the most inexpensive way to keep in touch. But very soon, I realised that she'd rather exchange news , photos and videos with her FB friends than talk to daddy! As for my brother, he soon became addicted to playing games although he'd occasionally say hi.

Very soon, I got tired of FB and deleted my account. I prefer to email my friends and family or text message them.  My son  recently told me that FB is now allowed to children from the age of nine! I guess it's yet another elecronic game for them which keeps them away from real socialising such as go out and play with other kids or take up a sport while, at the same time, young children and teens are exposed to serioius dangers.  It's a bad idea to post dicey photos or racy prose on social networking sites, no matter how private teens may think they are. According to a 2008 Kaplan study, one in 10 college admissions officers routinely check out college applicants’ Facebook and Twitter pages. And some 38% of them found posts and pictures that reflected poorly on those prospective students.

Unfortunate Facebook postings can have serious legal repercussions too. One of the first things attorneys do with a new case is search online for information about plaintiffs, defendants and witnesses alike. In one Rhode Island case, a 20-year-old’s drunk driving accident, which severely injured another youth, could have resulted in a relatively light stint at county jail or the considerably more severe state prison. But, as the prosecutor in the case quickly discovered, two weeks after the accident, while his victim was still in the hospital, the youth posted photos on Facebook of himself at a Halloween party, prancing around in a prisoner costume. He was sentenced to two years in state prison. A woman in Germany took leave of absence from work upon presentation of a fake medical certificate saying she was suffering from cancer and had to stay away from work for three months. The woman posted some photos on FB showing her and friends partying at a club in Berlin.  A caption on one of these photos said: ".... and let the boss worry about my good health".  When she went back to work, she was quite ...shocked to find out that she was fired!

No matter how private your privacy settings are on FB, there is no real privacy. 
In 2009, Mashable‘s CEO and founder Pete Cashmore argued on CNN that privacy was dead, and social media was holding the smoking gun:
“We’re living at a time when attention is the new currency: With hundreds of TV channels, billions of Web sites, podcasts, radio shows, music downloads and social networking, our attention is more fragmented than ever before.
“Those who insert themselves into as many channels as possible look set to capture the most value. They’ll be the richest, the most successful, the most connected, capable and influential among us. We’re all publishers now, and the more we publish, the more valuable connections we’ll make.”
While I agree with his assertion that in an age where attention is king, privacy is simply an illusion, I disagree about the murderer. Sure, Twitter, Flickr, Google and others played a part in privacy’s death, but Facebook made the killing blow.

Facebook’s passive sharing will change how we live our lives. More and more, the things we do in real life will end up as Facebook posts. And while we may be consoled by the fact that most of this stuff is being posted just to our friends, it only takes one friend to share that information with his or her friends to start a viral chain.

Sharing with just your friends doesn’t protect your privacy. I know the people at Facebook will disagree and argue that users can control what is shared with whom. But this is simply an illusion that makes us feel better about all the sharing we have done and are about to do.
We may not notice the impact on our lives immediately. But it won’t be long until your life is on display for all of your friends to see, and then we’ll all know what Facebook has wrought.

5 comments:

Katie said...

When I think about all the hours I wasted this past year on Facebook, and imagine the good I could have done instead, it depresses me. Instead of scouring my friends' friends' photos for other possible friends, I could have been raising money for Darfur relief, helping out at the local animal shelter or delivering food to the homeless. It depresses me even more to know that I would never have done any of those things, even with all those extra hours.

I was so addicted to my imaginary playgroup, I put the Facebook application on my BlackBerry. That way I could know immediately when some kid who used to pick on me in elementary school was reaching out across the years to remind me that I still had cooties. Once I was so entranced reading my Facebook page on my handheld, that I lost sight of the actual faces of the people on the street around me, and came to only after I fell into the lap of a man in a wheelchair. I was hurt when he rebuffed my attempt to friend him, but it turns out real life doesn't have that feature.

Stefania said...

I've only been on FB recently intending to add only people I know in person and share the information I choose to share. I think privacy settings on FB are great. You choose what to share.

sand dune said...

Facebook and Google exist to make money, by selling advertisers the means to target you with ever greater precision. That explains the endless series of “privacy” headlines, as these unregulated businesses push boundaries to make it easier for paying third parties to access your likes, interests, photos, social connections and purchasing intentions. That’s why Facebook has made it harder for users to understand exactly what they’re giving away — why, for instance, its privacy policy has grown from 1,004 words in 2005 to 5,830 words today. Founder Mark Zuckerberg once joked dismissively about the “dumb fucks” who “trust me”. I admire the business Zuckerberg’s built; but I don’t trust him.

Christina P said...

I'm not on FB because firstly I don't trust the site and secondly if I want to keep in touch with my real-life friends and family, I call them or text them or email them. To keep in touch with my online friends, I email them or visit their blogs. FB is such a waste of time!

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