With the perks and benefits which come with the net – the easy networking ability, the access to real-time information from all of the world, the social networking phenomenon, the way we can approach a whole day without leaving our desks – with all of these wonderfully convenient and appealing aspects of the internet world, there is still that one dark cloud that seems forever to be hanging on the heads of web-users. The issue of online privacy – or more specifically, the lack thereof, seems to constantly be showing up in the evening news, in the office, and in countless blogs the world over. So is it something we need to all be concerned about, or perhaps is it another needless concern?
Should we care? Many think that the younger generation, or the digital natives, hold a blas attitude to email tracking gmail, not really worrying about who or so what can access their home town, cell phone numbers, or general demographical information. Yet interestingly, a newly released survey found that it is in reality the 18-35 year olds that are more inclined to be tread the online privacy waters more carefully than their older peers. It seems that even though younger demographic might be more easygoing about posting private details across their social network pages, they are also more prone to use the privacy settings in place to specifically dictate just who are able to access those private details. In accordance with a PEW study, for instance, only 6% of teens allow both their first and last names to be noticed by the general public on social networks. Perhaps this is because the majority are only using social network to help keep in contact with already existing friends – and privacy settings are adapted so that no others outside their ‘friend’ lists can access their information.
Unfortunately for Facebook, lately this has been making news headlines for the wrong reasons. Viruses are generating the rounds of Facebook pages, posing as ‘hilarious’ video links that appear to be to be posted on your wall from your friends, simply to infect your computer and steal your log on details in the event you click them. Facebook recently introduced new privacy settings to permit users to better control their online privacy, only to have a backlash of complaints that this new settings were too complicated, with users confused and concerned over exactly how their personal information was being used. There is also a ‘Quit Facebook Day’ founded mid 2010 so as to boycott the social network site because of the online privacy issue, but which had been met using a lukewarm response through the site’s users. In May 2010, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder, released an announcement declaring that new and improved privacy settings were on their own way. With ‘privacy controls that are much easier to use’ and ‘an easy way to turn off all third-party services’, Facebook are attempting to soothe their disgruntled users and set an end for the privacy breach rumours. A huge concern that stays is the fact although the privacy settings are easier to use, they are not set as default – in other words, until you actively look for the privacy settings and change them yourself, your profile, information and photographs are offered to the general public. Which means that if we want be private, we have to learn how to practice it.
Holding us back – Social network sites have also come under fire lately due to a variety of terrible abductions and other crimes which have resulted from users falling for disguises online. Chat rooms have for ages been a worry for moms and dads, giving anyone from all over the world an outlet for direct communication with under-age Online users. The other major gnbptu concern often is caused by online purchasing. As e-commerce continues to boom, unfortunately, so too carry out the cases of identity theft, monetary theft and fraud. In reality, many believe that the one thing holding back the e-commerce industry is the absence of consumer privacy protection online.
Education is the key – So does all of this imply that we need to shut down our social networking pages and refuse to get online? Interestingly, authorities often react to public concerns on the hazards of the online world by advising users to merely hide any information as well as any personal information, or just not use certain websites. However perhaps it really is more realistic and sensible to advise Internet users to teach themselves on the privacy settings in the websites they frequent and utilize, as well as be personally responsible and accountable as they take part in sharing online. Mark Zuckerberg believes that ‘people desire to keep in touch and present to those around them’. Users are capable of doing this without privacy fears if they carry it upon themselves to be informed and also to use the Internet responsibly. The internet world has opened up phenomenal opportunities in the form of communication and global sharing, and although just like most things, this comes along with its threats, we can use social network sites and e-commerce without fear when we are responsible, clued-up and Internet savvy.