Yesterday, Facebook was exposed for a serious flaw in their privacy protection, making private photos visible to everyone. And, Mark Zuckerberg, himself, was one of the victims. Recently, the FTC required Google increase privacy protection for social media users after finding chronic violations of users privacy.
The situation doesn’t just impact Facebook and Google+. I’ve uploaded private videos to YouTube only to find they’ve been viewed by others. I’m not sure who was able to view the videos, but I can only account for 2 views of the 10 listed by YouTube.
Plus, hacking into these networks is child’s play. All you have to do is create a fraudulent app, get users to give your app access to their network and you’re off to the races. Of find a computer where someone forgot to log out of their Facebook account and you can see everything on their wall and profile.
Combine this with unintentional sharing, such as when you share something with your friends and they re-share it with people who you never imagined would see it and you have a privacy nightmare.
Does Privacy on Social Networks Really Matter?
Well, in the case of the Zuckerberg photo above, featuring him with President Obama, the accidental release to the public doesn’t reflect much danger.
I’ve heard otherwise intelligent experts argue users know there’s little privacy on social networks and that users don’t care. I beg to differ.
Lack of privacy on social networks or anywhere else is a major concern.
Privacy is a hallmark of a free society. It reflects our ability to share information selectively, even when there isn’t any direct danger from over-sharing, as with the picture of Zuck and Obama. Without privacy, intimacy is impossible.
The concept of privacy includes the individual’s right to withhold deeply felt ideas, beliefs, and emotions, as well as conduct that might be embarrassing or harmful to the self.
Users Care Deeply About their Online Privacy
That’s why location-based apps, like Foursquare, aren’t used much. The business potential for such apps is enormous, but you can’t get enough users to turn them on.
That’s why users choose closed Twitter accounts.
That’s why Google+ circles are popular, even though users rarely use the circle feature appropriately. Just having that element of control appeals to users.
So, do you think there’s privacy on social networks?
Do you care about online privacy?
What steps do you take to ensure your communications are private online?
Let me hear from you in the comments below.