With all of the perks and benefits which come with the Internet – the simple networking ability, the access to real-time information from all the world, the social networking phenomenon, the way we can plan an entire day without leaving our desks – with many of these wonderfully convenient and appealing aspects of the online world, there exists still that one dark cloud that seems forever to be hanging over the heads of web-users. The problem of online privacy – or maybe more specifically, the lack thereof, seems to constantly be showing up at night news, at the office, as well as in an incredible number of blogs the world over. So is it something we should all be worried about, or possibly is it another needless concern?
Should we care? Many feel that younger generation, or the digital natives, hold a blas attitude to online privacy and security, not necessarily worrying about who or exactly what can access their home town, phone numbers, or general demographical information. Yet interestingly, a newly released survey found that it must be in fact the 18-35 year olds that are more likely to be tread the web privacy waters more carefully than their older peers. It appears that although the younger demographic might be more easygoing about posting private details across their social network pages, they are also more prone to make use of the privacy settings set up to specifically dictate just that can 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 public on social networking sites. Perhaps this is because the majority are only using social media to keep in touch with already existing friends – and privacy settings are adapted to ensure that no others outside their ‘friend’ lists can access their information.
Unfortunately for Facebook, lately it has been making news headlines for all the wrong reasons. Viruses are making the rounds of Facebook pages, posing as ‘hilarious’ video links that seem to be to be posted on your own wall by your friends, just to infect your pc and steal your sign in details in case you click on them. Facebook recently introduced new privacy settings to allow users to better control their online privacy, only to possess a backlash of complaints the new settings were too complicated, with users confused and concerned over just how their private information was used. There is even a ‘Quit Facebook Day’ founded mid 2010 in an attempt to boycott the social network site as a result of online privacy issue, but which was met using a lukewarm response through the site’s users. In May 2010, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder, released a statement declaring that new and improved privacy settings were on the way. With ‘privacy controls which are more simple to use’ and ‘an good way to switch off all third-party services’, Facebook are trying to soothe their disgruntled users and place a conclusion for the privacy breach rumours. A large concern that stays is the fact that even though the privacy settings are simpler to use, they are certainly not set as default – put simply, up until you actively search for the privacy settings and change them yourself, your profile, information and photographs are for sale to the public. Because of this when we want be private, we have to figure out how to do it.
Holding us back – Social network sites have also come under fire of late because of a quantity of terrible abductions along with other crimes which have resulted from users falling for disguises online. Chat rooms have for ages been a worry for mothers and fathers, giving anyone from around the globe an outlet for direct communication with under-age Online users. Another major gnbptu concern often comes from online purchasing. As e-commerce will continue to boom, unfortunately, so too do the cases of identity theft, monetary theft and fraud. In reality, many think that the thing holding back the e-commerce sector is the lack of consumer privacy protection online.
Education is key – So does all of this imply that we need to de-activate our social networking pages and refuse to get online? Interestingly, authorities often react to public concerns over the dangers of the web world by advising users to merely hide any information and any personal information, or simply just not use certain websites. However perhaps it is more realistic and sensible to advise Online users to teach themselves on the privacy settings of the websites they frequent and make use of, and to be personally responsible and accountable because they get involved in sharing online. Mark Zuckerberg believes that ‘people wish to keep in touch and share with those around them’. Users can do this without privacy fears if they take it upon themselves to be informed and also to search on the internet responsibly. The internet world has opened up phenomenal opportunities in the way of communication and global sharing, and although just like most things, this comes along with its threats, we could use social network sites and e-commerce without fear if we are responsible, clued-up and Internet savvy.