1 January 2011
Tim on should we change our expectations about online privacy?
.net the big question - Should we change our expectations about online privacy?
Tim Gibbon on whether we should be looking at changing online privacy expectations particularly with organisations like Facebook for .net magazine's the big question.
"We had a look at a very similar question back in 2008, Net Nannying and how to better protect privacy for children. My views haven¹t changed in that users need to be more responsible (personally responsible) with their data and information.
It's a lot more involved than having content that can embarrass individuals, it could very well have an impact upon careers. It's just far too easy to share content (whether audio, images and/or video) across the web via a multitude of devices especially when they are portable. Even if users add content to profiles that are protected from the web and amongst their private network, content could be removed and made public elsewhere without their permission. Content now has the potential to go 'viral' and be visible around the world instantly and individuals can find new found fame for all the wrong reasons and more importantly, it can have an limitless shelf life as it becomes embedded within search engines. As for status updates, they¹re a feature that inspires the best and worst in people and are digital crack for some individuals. If the visible by default, then users need to be informed this is so. However, with privacy controls that social networks may constantly update for users to control what the web other users have access to, individuals should work to premise that if compromising content is not available it can't be accessed.
It's easy to say that individuals need to exercise self-control and not share content that 'may be' deemed inappropriate by current and future employers, but it is as simple as that. Even though employment law maybe changing and employers will not be allowed to investigate potential and existing employees social lives, it would be prudent to remove that risk. Employers can also be voyeuristic and who knows where a look across search engines can lead them where an opinion can be formed.
Therefore, possibly the best course of action is a prevention before cure school of thought and refrain from pressing that send and/or upload button regardless how interesting the content may be, because users never know who is watching. Does it seem over the top to restrict what could be deemed harmless fun, possibly, but is it worth damaging a career over, regardless at what stage it may be at?
Facebook at el don¹t exist to for good nature of all, they are organisations on a mission and wish to achieve that in an extremely competitive marketplace to turn a profit. Ultimately, users need to remain vigilant and exercise commonsense (although this known not to be too common these days) and be cautious how they interact within social environments. Similarly, social networks need to keep their users abreast of developments across the services that have an impact upon privacy. Our expectations should of course change in line with what may transpire with evolvement of digital environments and how we interact with them. To keep this agenda visible so that we are enlightened requires input from lobbyists, government, media and stakeholders to ensure rights are not breached.
As for the news groups feature, well there is one thing that Facebook is consistent in doing and that¹s introducing features that tend to rub users up the way wrong way. The ability, necessity and need are clearly different things and I would have thought based upon previous feedback on their fails Facebook would have learned many lessons. Their commitment to connecting people and sharing may be noble, but their approach needs work."
Tim's feedback first appeared in .net print magazine (issue 211 in January 2011). See Rachel's reply to the question here.
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