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Social Media: Expectations of Privacy

by Briana Campbell (@MsMatchGirl) I’ve been thinking a lot about people’s expectations of privacy when they are using social media platforms. What it is that one should reasonably expect to be private and what can’t be protected from prying eyes.

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by Briana Campbell (@MsMatchGirl)

I’ve been thinking a lot about people’s expectations of privacy when they are using social media platforms. What it is that one should reasonably expect to be private and what can’t be protected from prying eyes.

It started when I saw an infographic on MediaBistro about how companies are using social media tools to hire and fire employees. And then I listened to this NPR interview with Matt Drucker, the CEO of a new company called Social Intelligence Corporation – which specializes in mining social media platforms for incriminating information. And then I saw that the NYPD had formed a new unit, whose sole purpose is to troll MySpace, Facebook and Twitter for “mayhem.”

To me, none of this is a surprise. People will always want as much information as they can get on their friends and neighbors. People have been peeping into other people’s lives from the beginning of time.

But what level of privacy can one realistically expect in the digital age?

When people sign up for Facebook, and let’s keep our focus there, since pretty much everyone and their mother is hanging out on that platform, they agree to Facebook’s Terms of Use. Raise your hand if you actually read these before creating your profiles. Just as I thought. Not so many.

Yesterday this comment showed up on the Facebook walls of many of my friends:

And it was partially true. When I followed the instructions to look at the phone numbers, the only ones I had posted were those of friends who had posted them to their own Facebook walls as part of their contact information. It seems that friends with iPhones were noticing all or most of their contacts showing up in their Facebook contacts section, which has something to do with the iOS/Facebook mobile sync. And they were freaking out about Facebook stealing people’s phone numbers.

Not that Facebook hasn’t had some privacy issues in the past, but this is something that is clearly stated in their terms of use (#6 – Mobile):

And when you follow those instructions, to stop Facebook from “stealing” your phone numbers, you’ll also find this little note:

“Facebook Phonebook displays contacts you have imported from your phone, as well as your Facebook friends.” In plain speak, this means that Facebook is showing you only phone numbers that you yourself synced from your phone, along with those of Facebook friends who have their phone numbers published on the “info” section of their profile. There is also a link to easily turn off this functionality.

While I’m sympathetic to people’s concern over their or their friend’s phone numbers being made open to the public, this seems like it’s covered. As Facebook becomes a place where more and more people do the majority of their communicating, entering the worlds of messaging, video chat and email, don’t be surprised to see this functionality continue to grow.

Also it seems to me that there was a time when people were perfectly comfortable and confident in sharing their phone numbers with the general public.

Anyone else remember this little publication?

 

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