The Tipping Point – Privacy Issues

As I was browsing my Facebook, I saw one of my “friends” posted this status update last week. I thought this was a perfect blog intro, purely for the creep factor.  Now that I have some readers wondering if they’re mobile service provider is tracking them, too, it presents the question – when do people feel their privacy is no longer private?

The fact is, as the information highway continues to expand, more people are blindly hitching a ride at the cost of their own privacy. The web in its social form is about people-to-people communication, sharing and consensual building of online spaces. As the communication and sharing continues, more and more data will be collected.  Data that like recyclable materials, can be reused in many ways – such as, demographic marketing.  Cue spooky music.

Everyone knows social media sites such as Facebook, Google+, Linkedin use your personal data for themselves – and not only for themselves but enable others to use your data as well, which allows for subliminal features of communication.  Hey LinkedIn, how did you know I might want to connect with my landlord that I wrote to one time via email?  Oh well – ‘connect’, yeah 89 connections and counting!  Yes they are watching you closely. Actually many people are unaware of how much information Facebook is actually collecting about them, and it’s not as subversive as you might think – users voluntarily put the info out there.  The thing is, if you don’t regularly check your Facebook privacy settings- you are probably sharing more information than you thought.  If you’ve never checked your privacy settings, then you are definitely sharing more information than you thought.

Just last November, Facebook was held to the fire by the U.S. Trade Commission over a very public privacy issue that settled out of court. Charges included deceiving users and shared information that it had promised to keep private.

Now that Facebook has created the Timeline feature- even more privacy concerns have arose. There have been numerous complaints about private messages posted to a user which are now posted publicly on their timeline. Facebook has disputed these claims and said that they are older wall posts that were always public by individuals.

By offering up data, people may receive advertising they may genuinely be interested in, but this requires giving up some degrees of privacy. And I’m not sure everyone is ready to give out that information yet.  Like many, I’m not sure if I want the advertising world to know that I’m Gucci loving mother of 5 Jersey girl who works at a tanning salon (nice red herring to throw them off my trail)!  With Facebook having over 800 million active users, the 20-something age range and the ever expanding older demographics are no longer okay with social site dictating privacy in any form.

CEO of Google famously said, “ Google policy is to get right up to the creepy line and not cross it.”

I think many people are beginning to feel that their private information is at risk not just by social sites, but also by hackers. Google reported just today that it is introducing a campaign to ease privacy concerns.  The Good to Know campaign will be featured in dozens of newspapers and magazines.  The campaign is said to offer practical advice and tips on how to manage what kind of data people share with Google and other sites.

Since so much information is being collected about each of us, and privacy concerns are becoming more of a hot topic – companies are starting to establish a trust between us and them. However, it’s not likely you are going to be able to keep all your information private. And the bottom line: if you don’t want someone to potentially see something- don’t share it…unfortunately with anyone, not even grandma, that’s why this blog is going to sit comfortably on my desktop where no one can read it….

 

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6 Comments on “The Tipping Point – Privacy Issues”

  1. williamwickey says:

    According to Mark Zukerberg, public is the new social norm. (http://mashable.com/2010/01/10/facebook-founder-on-privacy/)

    This is no longer just the personal sentiment of the head of the most powerful media company in the world, it is now a corporate philosophy.

    Zukerberg’s Law of Information Sharing, as stated by the CEO himself, states that “I would expect that next year, people will share twice as much information as they share this year, and next year, they will be sharing twice as much as they did the year before.”

    We can expect Facebook (and other companies like search engines and internet service providers) to use the information we choose to share to make money (typically through advertising). Since more information = more money, we can expect these companies to dig as deep as they can without their customers being so freaked out the cancel their service. However, each time these companies push, we get more comfortable, inching the “creepy line” further and further back.

    Since many view services like Facebook and cellphone data plans as quite valuable, or even essential, people seem to be willing to get over living a trackable, public life online. Awareness is a great thing, but like you said, people should get used to the idea that the only way to keep information totally private is to keep it offline all together.

  2. Thanks for the comment! You’re dead on – you get it.

  3. knilsson27 says:

    You mentioned that people are blindly jumping on this ‘information highway’ and exposing their personal lives to the world without even really knowing that they are doing so. I feel confident in saying that a majority of social media users have no idea what their personal information is being used for, or even that it is being used at all. Having said that, I also agree with William in that the line between creepy and not creepy is being pushed further and further back, because social media users in general like having the access that they do, and are willing to give up their privacy to keep these features, such as the facebook timeline and being able to see friends status updates and where they check in.
    But we have to wonder really at what point the majority of these people are willing to draw the line? It keeps getting pushed back further and further so that online sources have more and more information about users, but when will it stop? With all the emerging technology today and the ability for these technologies to creep further into the home, how will the companies using this data really be able to determine where the ‘creepy line’ is so that they do not cross it? Our society (or at least much of our society) is currently setting the standard that we are willing to let companies have our information as long as we can keep using their sites. Be afraid, be very afraid.

  4. With each update/upgrade Facebook (the data giant) makes, it seems users go through a phase of complaining followed by an acceptance and near willingness, as Kelsi has said above, to give up their privacy in order to keep using Facebook and all the features included. With each update the creepy line keeps getting pushed and pushed; we’re at the point where looking at someone’s new baby pictures leads to baby advertisements and with constant change who can keep track with what privacy settings need to be set nowadays. I agree with everything Kelsi and William have both said- At this point by sharing our private lives and putting private information on display is giving our own data out almost for free.

  5. The scary thing to me is not Google and Facebook sharing information as these days that is to be expected (being social networks where users willfully share information) but a company like Verizon however (where customers believe they can connect with others PRIVATELY) , which I am a customer of, not only shares your information but sells it and puts the responsibility on the USER to opt out! In order to opt out the user has to catch the sneaky company then begin the process to regain their privacy. For the thousands of individuals that only look at the cost of their bill and not any of the fine print I am sure this will come as a surprise as well.

    I wonder if Verizon and other companies consider giving the customer who they are pimping out to the highest bidder a percentage of whatever this “valuable” information costs. wishful thinking right? All I am saying is ask permission first then see what happens.

  6. bhe28 says:

    I have always thought it’s important to carefully select what is put onto social media sites. I always considered future employment to be a large reason why it was best to selectively choosing information to post. However, now it is shocking to see how the information I have posted in social media sites is ACTUALLY used by companies.
    I also agree with Kelsi in the idea that most people don’t realize the true value of the information they are posting and how it is used.


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