Does the use of social media threaten your privacy?
In and of itself, posting open messages to public networks does appear to fly in the very face of self-protection and personal security. After all, if you don’t want people to know something, why on earth would you write about it on the internet?
So, perhaps a more important question is: if you choose to be active on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, can you realistically expect, or even demand privacy?
Recently I was watching an old episode of CSI, and, in the course of the investigation, some members of the team had tracked down the Twitter profile of the victim – a young, female college student – to look for clues. Sure enough, in those tweets there were clues aplenty, to a point where one of the characters, in bewilderment at what was being shared online, made the observation that young people just don’t value privacy. To which the other responded:
“They don’t expect privacy. They value openness.”
I kinda like that. And I think it might well be true, certainly for the teenage demographic. For those of us of a certain age (and beyond), social media is a new thing. Something different to what we had before. We can easily remember a time without Twitter and Facebook. But, like MP3s (over CDs and LPs), flat screen televisions (over car-sized, four-channel boxes) and the Wii (I still miss my ZX Spectrum), for hundreds of millions of kids social media is all they have ever known. For them, social media has always been part of the world. Their world. And a massively important part, too. And, as such, it’s less about any concerns they might have over privacy (or lack thereof), and more about a willingness to be open about their lives.
Ultimately, what is being shared online must always be in the control of the user – I think this is why so many people are uncomfortable with Facebook’s frictionless sharing – but, when you get right down to it, you pays your money and you takes your choice. It’s no coincidence that many of those who are most concerned about privacy online often have little knowledge about the settings and control that they have within their social media accounts, as well as being the people that are most likely to click on malicious links and spread malware.
Yeah, I’m looking at you, grandma. And anyone else who is naive or blasé about the internet. But this isn’t about age – it’s important that we all educate ourselves about what can and can’t be seen on our social profiles, and by whom. Ignorance is not an excuse.
This infographic from MDG Advertising takes a close look at the complex, tetchy relationship between social media and user privacy.