Privacy? No Such Thing…

…on the Internet!

Privacy is such a hot topic now days, especially with the popularity of social media websites such as Twitter and Facebook. As an avid user of these new social networks, I must say that I am concerned about my privacy, and who has access to my information. After a conversation with Eva Galperin who works for Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), I am more aware of the auctioning of my information.

Let’s take a look at the biggest social media site, Facebook. This social network doesn’t make money or profit from its users; they make money from advertisers. Therefore, the billions of users on Facebook are not the client, they are the product. What does that mean for us? Our demographics, ramblings, and all the other things we share on social networks are sold to companies, who then take our information and sell it to others who are trying to reach a certain demographic. Our information can even be turned or sold to the governments so criminals beware.

On the web, the information we share represents us, so we as individuals are being sold like hot commodities as companies profit from our precious information. We are no longer in control of must of our own information. Sometimes companies use it; sometimes they sale it to others; sometimes they tell you how they are doing it; sometimes they don’t; some can turn it over to government; some are bound by the rule of law (like in the US); some are not (like Iran).

Of course there are some people taking a stand and attempting to save their primary.  Some sites such as joindiaspora.com are seeking to combat privacy issues on our precious social media sites. The website allows its users to set up personal servers, or “seeds” which allows them to control their own information. The company promises it will never run advertising and will let you take any of your data with you and use it wherever you want. Therefore the user’s has more control over their privacy. However, Galperin pointed out that the very essence of privacy can make the art of social media difficult. For example, one thing we love about Facebook is the ability to search for our friends, and for our friends to search for us. I must admit that I’m always thrilled when an old friend from years back finds me on Facebook. But the very essence that makes this possible is the fact that my information is public and can be obtained through a Facebook search. The Diaspora site makes this process very difficult because user’s information is kept private. So, if I joined, how would my friends find me? How would I participate in the social part of social media if I don’t have any friends to socialize with?

These privacy matters are hard to control because we want to share our lives with our friends and family.  If we didn’t we wouldn’t be on the sites in the first place.  So I’ve come up with a very practical solution…people should reevaluate what information they put out for the world to see on any digital medium. Now what this means to me is, I should be careful about what I put on the internet. I should almost always expect that once I put something on these social media websites, it becomes public information and anyone can see it. No matter which way you slice it, the internet will continue to be very capitalistic meaning whatever you put out there will be used and sold to someone who is trying to make a profit off you.

People should also become more aware of the privacy settings of these sites. I must admit that I have never really looked at the privacy policy on Facebook and Twitter, which means my information, is probably in the hands of millions of companies.  The other day I googled my name and looked in the images section and there were several photos I took and placed on my now defunct MySpace account.  I was shocked but I remembered I thought about my naivety of the privacy settings.  According to Eva Galperin, that’s one of the main ways companies dupe us; through our lack of knowledge.  So, instead of complaining about what companies are doing with our information, we should start by figuring out the basic ways to protect our information.

The bottom line is this: The internet and social media networks are not private and it probably won’t be for a very long time! The best way to handle this is to watch what you put out there for others to see and stay informed on the privacy policies as they change. Or just create your own private social networking site without the need for extrinsic awards.

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