One of the largest issues online and one that especially plagues Facebook and other networks like it, is the privacy issue. Facebook likes to use the argument, and Google CEO Eric Schmidt caught fire for the same sentiment, that if you’re online and don’t want the world to know something of you, don’t share it.
At present the general demographic of internet users range from the 12 year olds doing book reports and discovering social networking, to 80+ grandparents keeping in touch with family with email, Facebook and so on. When you through an idea as complicated as ‘privacy’ into the mix of a demographic so large, problems are created. Looking at the definition of privacy:
Privacy is the ability of an individual or group to seclude themselves or information about themselves and thereby reveal themselves selectively. The boundaries and content of what is considered private differ among cultures and individuals, but share basic common themes.
The ‘basic common themes’ would be the language pertaining too ‘the ability of an individual or group to seclude themselves or information about themselves and thereby reveal themselves selectively’. The idea that you control what others know about you isn’t a strange ideal to uphold, and Facebook et al would escape a lot of criticism if they made one simple change to their policies; instead of having users opt out, allow them instead to opt in to new features and services. Where a lot of the concerns and issues come from is the second part of the definition which says ‘boundaries and content of what is considered private differ among cultures and individuals’.
Privacy at it’s root, is a value shared by every person innately, but just like everyone has an opinion, everyone has a different take on privacy as a whole. What the privacy commissioners of the world deem as protection of privacy today, will be different for my childrens generation. Each generation as well, is becoming more and more comfortable with controlling their information online which will also contribute to changes in outlook. So before you click ‘Allow’ on that next Facebook application that your cousin sent you, take a minute instead to actively read what information it will be collecting and sharing about you. Privacy online has always been in the users control, the majority just fail to seize it.