Weekly #3 I Promise If You Promise

An innocent joke

So, what do you think?  Do I look slightly maniacal?  A little tipsy? I do have a drink in my hand.  Or am I just laughing hard at something out of frame? 

This is a photo I was recently tagged in on Facebook.  The boring truth?  Champagne had just been handed out to toast a colleague after we watched a very funny video.  The party was over by 11.

But that image, which I didn’t particularly like, was posted for all my friends and my friend’s friends and who knows who else to see – the now-classic “drink in hand” photo.   At least it wasn’t one of those “head in the toilet” shots that potential employers look for.  It was a reminder though, about how much happens on Facebook that I neither fully understand nor control. 

Both Facebook and Google have recently faced a backlash from users upset about what they see as an erosion of the right to own their information and choose who sees it.  In December 2009 Facebook changed its privacy policy, making names, profiles and friends lists publicly available and searchable. Google’s new Buzz feature automatically created unwanted friends lists from gmail addresses.  In both cases the platform, not the user, controlled the flow of information. 

This directly contradicts the  Bill of Rights for Users of the Social Web proposed in September 2007.  The authors wrote that social web users should

“maintain Ownership of:

  • their own profile data
  • the list of people they are connected to
  • the activity stream of content they create;

as well as maintaining Control of whether and how such personal information is shared with others.”

Web communications are now so easy that many people don’t think about what’s going on below the surface:  loss of privacy; voyeurism; information gathering for marketing or even criminal purposes.  That’s why I believe there should be a bill of rights protecting social web users.  I would add two points to the 2007 version:

  1. users have a right to be consulted before privacy changes are announced
  2. users can expect ABUNDANTLY CLEAR instructions and repeated reminders on how to maintain high levels of privacy.

 Sure people are more open these days, but I think there should be a shared responsibility.  I promise to give helpful feedback if social media sites promise to ask before making major changes.  I promise to read the fine print if sites promise to make it a little bigger!

If you’re among the many who didn’t read the Facebook fine print in December, here’s a helpful guide to make your future party pictures a bit more private.


One response to “Weekly #3 I Promise If You Promise

  1. A shift in our society has occurred the past few years. We have gone from initially fearing the security of the internet to anything/everything goes, your nobody unless everything about you is transparent. There is little digital hygiene that is of any concern with many of the nets younger users. This is all they have known since High School, so it must be safe, secure, and no problem. I don’t know where this all nets out for privacy and society. Caution is still necessary, storage is unlimited and cheap and everything is connected.

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