Wednesday, April 15, 2009

So Much for Privacy

In a world of Facebook and MySpace pages, our lives are displayed for everyone to see. We upload photos thinking that no one will see them unless we want them to. We list our favorite movies, books, songs, and people. We play games, share ideas, and communicate via these networks. What we don't realize is the permanence and transparency of the websites.

When I upload photos or thoughts to Facebook, those photos become part of a permanent file set that Facebook owns forever. They have the rights to my photos by way of their Terms of Use agreement. It doesn't matter that I don't really like the idea... either agree or stop using Facebook. Anything else I have on there is also theirs to do with as they please. They can sell my photos, use my lists, and even share my name if they want. The fun and connectivity Facebook allows me comes at a pretty steep price.

The privacy issue gets to me even more. I have both my Facebook and MySpace accounts locked down so that only my friends can see them. I don't appear in searches. Unless you know me, and unless I've accepted a friend request, my accounts are off-limits to the world... or so I thought. Recent events surrounding a friend have shown me how un-private the Internet really is. This friend uploaded pictures to her page that had privacy controls placed on it. The friend only wanted her pictures to be shared with her friends. But one of her friends showed the pictures to other people who weren't the girl's friends--weren't even on Facebook or MySpace--and shouldn't have been able to see the pictures. Now the girl has to face these people who shouldn't have seen her pictures. It's not going to be comfortable for anyone.

Who is to blame? Should the girl not upload anything to the Internet? or should her friends not show or share her photos with others? Both, surely, but more fault rests on the girl for uploading the pictures in the first place. Nothing we do online is ever secure. We can't expect our photos or thoughts to be secure. They will be shared, stolen, and taken advantage of.

I've been careful to not get too many friends on Facebook. The people I am friends with are actually my real-life friends and family. My MySpace account shows that I'm 90 and from Michigan (or Vermont, or New Jersey, or Florida, depending on my mood)... it's safe to say there is ZERO personal information on that nightmare of a site. If it wasn't for the fact that I actually stay in touch with a couple friends from high school through that site, I'd drop it instantly.

Be aware that the Internet is never secure, never safe. Just because you've allowed information to only a few people doesn't mean your information won't go farther. Mine does, even though I try to keep it within my safe little bubble. It's a little scary. What we have to realize is that being open to communication also opens us up in other ways. Be careful.

1 comment:

The Guy Who Writes This said...

I wouldn't worry about Facebook. You've given more information about your self here over the years that someone could figure out your identity. I always question what I should not say on my anonymous blog, and I've had people walk up to me on the street asking if I am Guy.