Privacy and Choice

I am often surprised by people who get upset at their privacy being ignored or invaded while using social networking sites.  Without fail, every time sites like Facebook or twitter change their formats, add or remove features, make a policy change, several thousand users complain about usability, aesthetics, and mostly privacy. A few people have posted humorous responses like “if Facebook were to change its format to the original interface, we would still complain we liked the old Facebook better”.

People should be wary of social networking sites when it comes to protecting their privacy and Facebook is notorious for not really pointing out what their privacy policy is, or giving clear updates when it is changed. This being said, ultimately it is the user who is to blame when privacy is breached.

I was not an early adopter of the Internet. Not until the late 90’s did I have an email address (and that was an AOL handle). I did not engage much or contribute anything to the Web early on. I did use chat rooms a great deal and created alter egos that I would use while in a given chat. That was what the Internet was to me when I was in my late 20’s. It was a place to play make-believe. It was easy to remain anonymous and hidden in that environment. Very few users had the tools available to them to invade much of anything, let alone my private profiles or accounts.  I used the internet to schedule classes for school, follow sports, and play pretend with other pretenders in chat rooms.

That World Wide Web does not exist any longer. Being anonymous on the web takes effort now. Many things users are not even aware of are accessible by almost anyone with a basic search engine and some creativity. Being worried about account numbers, personal information and the deep dark secret someone is carrying  is perfectly normal and makes sense. Worrying about what is posted on a social networking site is a bit ridiculous.

I was an early adopter of social networking. I was apart of several fan sites that had message boards and profile pages. I have had accounts on most of the early sites like Freindster, Myspace, and now Facebook, Twitter and career sites like LinkedIn.  If I have learned anything, it is that any privacy setting can be overcome and that anything on those sites is publicly available. They are meant to be that way. Yes, you should be able to have some say in what is visible to who, but any information on a social networking site is most often placed there by you or someone you personally know.  If you do not want a certain picture out for public view, do not post it. If a friend posts it, ask them to remove it or get better friends. Any words you do not want as public record, follow the same rule you would in speaking, keep them to yourself or  keep them off the site. Of all the places on the Web where you actually have control of what gets seen, social networks are  the most obvious.

You cannot control what others say about you, but that has nothing to do with privacy policy or invasion of privacy on the part of the website.  Posting to Facebook and asking for privacy is very much like standing in a room full of millions of people and shouting, hoping that one person hears while another does not.

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About fenster

There are some who call me, Tim?

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