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Limiting Online Privacy 9 May 2010

Posted by schmeslie in Reflection.
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I don’t understand why people treat free sites, such as Facebook, as a private space. To me the internet is even more public than work or school. At work or school sharing personal information is unavoidable. Due to this we have the right to a certain amount of security or privacy. But participating in a social networking site is something people do voluntarily and it isn’t necessary to even use real names.

Social networking sites don’t create privacy settings because the end-users deserve it; they invest in these functions because they want the public to be there – it is about gaining market share by luring in as many users as possible. The more users or eyeballs they have the more valuable the tracked behavior becomes. And since the service is free sites like Facebook don’t really owe anything to its users. That said Facebook began making certain promises to its users and over time has slowly amended its policies to reduce user privacy. What once seemingly private has now turned into a not-so-private site with millions of users. Many users are in an uproar about this, and it is bogus, but it can’t be all that surprising: they’ve got the mindshare and the algorithms and now they intend to use them. For Facebook as a business it is either this or they start charging and lose their audience.

It is different from online businesses. Businesses know that ensuring security for its online customers is a way to increase repeat visits and loyalty. They need to create a safe environment so people will feel comfortable giving private information such as their address and credit card number. Often they go so far as to promise to not sell names and addresses to third party vendors. This trust deepens the connection between companies their customers.

Sites like Facebook are doing great things for our society by bringing people together and allowing for greater freedom of expression. However users need to realize that privacy through a free service, while it might be the smart thing to keep users, it isn’t something that is obligated. This may seem shocking to the younger generations that grew up with the burgeoning world of free social networking services but to me it is just common sense. Perhaps these so-called digital natives are just still too young and naïve to realize that it is up to the individual to protect themselves.

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