Privacy in a Public Space

Let’s be honest. For most of us, Facebook is the only way we connect and interact with certain people. Perhaps they are friends from high school, distant relatives, or (God forbid) exes. We may even have “friends” who we only met once, maybe at a party or through a mutual friend, but whom we have not seen since. It really is great to have a network on which to have some sort of interaction with these people, even if we don’t know them all that well. Personally, I hate deleting people off Facebook. I feel as if I’m losing a connection, and I always worry that once I delete them, I’ll soon randomly run into them and have to explain why I made the decision to delete them. Crazy, right? Here’s the thing, though; my personal information, my thoughts, my life (the parts that I choose to make public) is on this site. I don’t want basic strangers having access to that.

This makes me stop and ponder my decision to actually post personal information on a social networking site. The information I post online isn’t usually anything that a person couldn’t access through public records: place of birth, current city, date of birth. So why don’t I feel comfortable with staying connected to these deleted people? I guess it’s because I don’t want others to have such easy access to me, to my life. And yet, I still keep this information up. I still post personal feelings, thoughts, my everyday life for everyone to see. This begs the question: why do we feel the need to post such personal things on a public forum? Even with privacy settings, there’s no guarantee that someone, whom we’ve given access to our profiles, won’t abuse this access and exploit our information. Seriously, why do we post private information on a public site? I don’t understand this phenomenon, and yet I participate.

Naomi Troni explores this topic in her article “Social Media Privacy: A Contradiction in Terms?” http://www.forbes.com/sites/onmarketing/2012/04/24/social-media-privacy-a-contradiction-in-terms/

She explains that we as a society have become so used to doling out pieces of information that we rarely give a second thought to providing it online for companies when purchasing a product or service, or subscribing for membership to a website. It’s only when our information is exploited and our privacy violated that we become wary of our lax privacy issues. Reputation.com discusses the top 5 social media privacy concerns of 2012. http://www.reputation.com/reputationwatch/articles/top-five-social-media-privacy-concerns-2012 It’s almost terrifying to think about how much information we’ve already posted online and who has access to it. Is there any other way to be more protective of this information?

Maybe we’ll never be able to go back to having completely private lives, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t be more diligent with protecting our information. Personally, I’m now more aware of what I post online and what I allow to be seen by the public. My privacy is more important to me than giving a website permission to access my account. So far, I haven’t had really any privacy issues, but I know this is not the case with everyone. Have you ever had a problem with a social network privacy policies/settings?

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3 thoughts on “Privacy in a Public Space

  1. In your blog entry you proposed the question “why do we feel the need to post such personal things on a public forum?”. Well, I for one think a major factor in the complex answer to that question is that we as a society are inherently exhibitionists. Now I know a lot of people would argue with me on personal grounds, moral grounds, religious grounds or what have you. However, I’m not trying to say that people are exhibitionists in an egotistical or sexual manner.

    It is my assessment that due in large part to the rise of social media, people have become so familiar with putting themselves on display that it has become almost second nature to reveal personal information without giving it a second thought. Furthermore, social media sites have facilitated a place for people to receive feedback on their posts (thoughts, pictures, links, music, etc.) This structure has allowed people to gain self-assurance (and sometimes criticism) from others that they may or may not know on a personal level. Regardless, the point is that we have become programmed to post things in hopes of gaining commentary on said posts.

    I don’t think any of us could deny that we get onto our respective social media sites in hopes of discovering that people have commented our posts. Who doesn’t get excited when they logon to Facebook and see that little red circle with a number inside indicating our amount of notifications? To summarize, our exhibitionist behavior, our desire to receive feedback on our information is why we post such personal information without much hesitation.

  2. I personally agree with your blog post. Through my own actions within cyberspace, I have fallen victim to constantly posting with little to no thought of my own privacy. I theorize that we, as a majority of people, love to place ourselves on display for the public to see. These actions may take the forms of posting pictures, videos, comments, statuses, and tweets. Just look at Twitter, for example. The social networking site is made entirely for users to talk about themselves. As exhibitionists, it becomes evident that people are engaging with friends on these sites, and consequently, they become so comfortable with the site that they slowly (or quickly) become more lax on privacy. Posts become more public, more strangers are accepted as friends, and one’s name becomes more viral online. My hypothesis is that as people become more comfortable with a medium of connecting with others, like social media, they may let their guard down. As we progress into an age of social media, my theory is that we will become less hesitant and more eager to display a photo or status with the intent of receiving as many likes as possible within the abnormally high amount of friends online.

  3. I cant say that I have had any issues with Facebooks privacy policy/settings. I am fully aware of what I post and make public to my Facebook community. So far, taking the reasonable precautions that I do in everyday life with things like social security numbers, banking stuff ect. has kept me away from trouble. I suppose I approach Facebook in a way that is fundamentally different from you and a lot of people from what I gather. I don’t take it seriously. Facebook, to me, is nothing more than entertainment and a place to entertain. When I post a “status update” it is usually to try and make at least one friend laugh or mildly smirk. Outside of that staying in touch with people I know from high school is entertaining in its own right. I get some weird pleasure seeing the direction that friends/acquaintances head in post high school. I suppose deep down it is satisfying some morbid curiosity, I can literally see if my evaluation of a person was on par or if I was completely wrong. If nothing else I can use Facebook to stay in contact with those who extremely far away (friends & family) and these interactions can be a personal and private as I want them to be, whilst being completely safe/secure.

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