Felicia Cruz, Hanna el Debbar, Daenne Gomez, Jodel Fernandez, Mark Tan, Benny Tanedo, and Chad Yee proudly present…
These days, people can hardly go a day or two without social networking. The global phenomenon has tightly intertwined themselves with our day-to-day needs: Communication, self-expression, work. Let’s be honest here, since when have you gone a few days without Facebook?
Generations Y to Z are already so familiar with these sites: Instagram for a picturesque view of the world, Twitter to capture opinions in 140 characters or less, and Facebook for pretty much everything else. With 1.15 billion Facebook users , 130 million Instagram users, and 200 million active Twitter users, there really is no doubt that this is the age of social networking.
Throughout this global boom though, it’s been apparent that most of these sites require personal information in order to tailor their services to user-specific needs. You know, name, age, sexual preference; hell, even your address. Here comes the problem then: What about privacy? How is that ensured?
According to good ol’ Merriam, privacy is the quality or state of being apart from company or observation –a kind of seclusion, in a way. How is this taken into account then if social networking sites pretty much know a lot of stuff about you? Maybe this is exactly where privacy protection goes in, swooping down so gallantly from its lofty cloud of human rights. But then, again, how certain is the quality of its implementation? Are we even safe?
Where’s the trust?
It’s not like these concerns are unfounded though; they have their grounding in real-life situations that have put to question the delicate trust between millions of users and some large social networking sites. The following are just to point out a few; the in-depth stories could be viewed in the sources below.
Quite recently, cases were filed against Google and Facebook for the misuse of user information. Various users have claimed that a number of apps on Facebook have sent personal information to advertisers and internet tracking companies while Google, through Google Buzz, has shared personal information to its other users.
Also, there was a study which showed that 87% of Americans are highly concerned with their safety on the web, while 61% of adult Americans are highly concerned. This apprehension stems mostly from the idea of third-party sharing: Whether users can check how their information is being used, whether sites they use are totally reliable, and whether or not users can remove their personal information.
Furthermore, a current study by the UK Watchdog has found that 71% of web users don’t really know what the actual policies are for privacy protection, nor read them at that. This illustrates precisely how myriad users click the “okay” or “agree” button without reading the terms – even when there’s sensitive information on the line.
Perhaps these claims and figures are but a small part of the bigger picture—of the true state of privacy when it comes to social networking sites—but there is value, still, to be taken here. Maybe after reading these, you should ask yourself, are you secure with the information that you hand out? And did you actually read the user terms?
If you’re terrified with the thought that personal information is being misused by big, multimillion dollar sites, then please do also think again. It’s no longer even about other people invading your privacy or misusing information obtained from social networking sites. Sometimes, it’s the user him/herself who agrees to disclose personal data: Whereabouts, photos, videos, sexual preferences… The list can go on, and in turn, online stalking becomes easier.
What’s even worse is that there really is no way to check for what is happening to a photo or video. Even with the control granted by user votes and reports, an administrator can only do so much – and even then, the damage would already have been done.
For example, if a humiliating photo was taken at a party and is posted online without its subject’s consent, then his/her reputation could be severely damaged; and he/she would probably not find out about it until it has already been exposed to an enormous audience and had already damaged his/her image badly.
In this case, it wouldn’t even matter whether you yourself have an account, so long as the perpetrator does. In most cases, the persons posting such things online don’t always have ruthless intentions – it’s usually society’s everyday viewers who are lightning-quick in judging what they see. Classic example? The “amalayer” episode. And of course, who could forget Christopher Lao?
This issue of privacy is pressing, relevant, and consequential to the realm of social networking. Apparently, transgressions have been made by both sites and users alike – the main question then isn’t so much as to whose fault it is, as much as it is in precisely what steps we, collectively as a human race, are willing to take in response to these issues.
Perhaps, from the point of view of the user, much can still be done about this. For one, the world really doesn’t need to know what you’re doing, minute by minute. Seriously. And then there’s the mindfulness that should come with handling sensitive information – especially with details that could compromise well-being. You wouldn’t tell a stranger on the street of your personal details, would you?
Perhaps, these both boil down to education. It’s really just a matter of getting these into countless people’s heads before they learn (the wrong way) otherwise. Like they say, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks – let’s teach the new dogs then, shall we?
It’s perfectly understandable, how the internet and its vibrant selection of social networking sites didn’t come with a user’s manual or a golden code of conduct to follow. This is still a completely new thing, anyway. Not to say that one should be established in the near future though—that would be actually very lovely—but realistically speaking, the values should begin with us. MJ would be proud.
Questions, more questions
Social networking sites have done us a wonderful thing. They provide an avenue for chatting, for blogging, for group works, for file sharing, for media – the list goes on and it doesn’t seem to approach a limit to its utility. For as long as the internet will live, so will Facebook and Twitter, among other big-time sites.
We are in the age of information – the building blocks to knowledge, which eventually integrates and coalesces into understanding. The more we understand our world and ourselves then, the deeper we could appreciate the sublime blueprints of reality.
Nothing’s ever that simple though. Our world is riddled with complexity, with grey areas and with postmodernity; there is no clear-cut right or wrong action to take, especially given the weight of our contemporary dilemmas.
There is no one way to solve the issue of privacy with these sites, though the truly human thing to do wouldn’t be to give up on this; the more human choice would be to reckon with these, to reconsider, and to ponder on the questions worth asking.
And as said before, it always starts with the self: Do I even value my own privacy? And if so, to what extents will I take this?
Sources (in MLA format):
Cha, Jiyoung. “Information Privacy: A Comprehensive Analysis Of Information Request
And Privacy Policies Of Most-Visited Web Sites.” Asian Journal Of Communication 21.6 (2011): 613-631. Communication & Mass Media Complete. Web. 2 Aug. 2013.
Hong, Weiyin, and James Y. L. Thong. “Internet Privacy Concerns: An Integrated
Conceptualization And Four Empirical Studies.” MIS Quarterly 37.1 (2013): 275-298. Business Source Complete. Web. 2 Aug. 2013.
O’ Bien, Deirdre, and Ann M. Torres. “Social Networking And Online Privacy: Facebook
Users’ Perceptions.” Irish Journal Of Management 31.2 (2012): 63-97. Business Source Complete. Web. 2 Aug. 2013.
Rallapalli, Murthy, and Dinesh Verma. “Privacy Negotiation In Socio-Technical Systems.”
Technology & Investment 3.1 (2012): 13-17. Business Source Complete. Web. 2 Aug. 2013.
Smith, Craig. “(June 2013) By The Numbers: 12 Interesting Instagram Stats.”
Expandedramblings.com. Digital Marketing Ramblings, 23 June 2013. Web. 05 Aug. 2013.
Smith, Craig. “(July 2013) By The Numbers: 20 Amazing Twitter Stats.”
Expandedramblings.com. Digital Marketing Ramblings, 21 July 2013. Web. 05 Aug. 2013.
Smith, Craig. “(August 2013) By The Numbers: 39 Amazing Facebook Stats.”
Expandedramblings.com. Digital Marketing Ramblings, 4 August 2013. Web. 05 Aug. 2013.
Sipior, Janice C., Burke T. Ward, and Ruben A. Mendoza. “Online Privacy Concerns
Associated With Cookies, Flash Cookies, And Web Beacons.” Journal Of Internet Commerce 10.1 (2011): 1-16. Business Source Complete. Web. 2 Aug. 2013.
Thierer, Adam. “The Pursuit Of Privacy In A World Where Information Control Is Failing.”
Harvard Journal Of Law & Public Policy 36.2 (2013): 409-455. Academic Search Complete. Web. 2 Aug. 2013.
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