With the perks and benefits which come with the web – the simple networking ability, the access to real-time information from all the world, the social media phenomenon, the way we can plan a complete day without leaving our desks – with many of these wonderfully convenient and appealing aspects of the web world, there is still that one dark cloud that seems forever to be hanging over the heads of web-users. The issue of online privacy – or more specifically, the lack thereof, appears to constantly be showing up later in the day news, at your workplace, and in countless blogs all over the world. So is it something we should all be worried about, or possibly is it another needless concern?
Should we care? Many think that the younger generation, or the digital natives, hold a blas attitude to email tracking gmail, certainly not worrying about who or what can access their home town, cell phone numbers, or general demographical information. Yet interestingly, a recently available survey found that it is actually the 18-35 year olds that will probably be tread the internet privacy waters more carefully than their older peers. It seems that even though the younger demographic might be more easygoing about posting private details across their social network pages, also, they are more likely to use the privacy settings set up to specifically dictate just who are able to access those private details. In accordance with a PEW study, as an example, only 6% of teens allow both their first and last names to be seen by most people on social networks. Perhaps the reason being many are only using social media to maintain in contact with already existing friends – and privacy settings are adapted in order that no others outside their ‘friend’ lists can access their information.
Unfortunately for Facebook, lately it has been making news headlines for all the wrong reasons. Viruses are generating the rounds of Facebook pages, posing as ‘hilarious’ video links that look to become posted on the wall by the friends, just to infect your computer and steal your sign in details in the event you click them. Facebook recently introduced new privacy settings to enable users to better control their online privacy, only to get a backlash of complaints that this new settings were too complicated, with users confused and concerned over how exactly their personal data was being utilized. There is a ‘Quit Facebook Day’ founded mid 2010 in an effort to boycott the social networking site due to the online privacy issue, but which had been met with a lukewarm response from your site’s users. In May 2010, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder, released a statement declaring that new and improved privacy settings were on the way. With ‘privacy controls which are much simpler to use’ and ‘an easy way to shut off all third-party services’, Facebook are trying to soothe their disgruntled users and place an end for the privacy breach rumours. A huge concern that remains is the fact however the privacy settings are easier to use, they are not set as default – in other words, before you actively search for the privacy settings and alter them yourself, your profile, information and photographs are offered to the general public. Which means that when we want be private, we must figure out how to get it done.
Holding us back – Social network sites also have come under fire recently because of variety of terrible abductions as well as other crimes which have resulted from users falling for disguises online. Chat rooms have for ages been a worry for moms and dads, giving anyone from anywhere in the world an outlet for direct communication with under-age Web users. The other major gnbptu concern often comes from online purchasing. As e-commerce will continue to boom, unfortunately, so too perform the cases of identity fraud, monetary theft and fraud. In fact, many believe that the thing holding back the e-commerce market is the lack of consumer privacy protection online.
Education is key – So does all this mean that we must de-activate our social media pages and refuse to purchase online? Interestingly, authorities often reply to public concerns on the hazards of the online world by advising users to simply hide any information as well as any personal details, or simply just not use certain websites. However perhaps it is actually more realistic and sensible to advise Online users to coach themselves on the privacy settings of the websites they frequent and utilize, and also to be personally responsible and accountable as they participate in sharing online. Mark Zuckerberg believes that ‘people desire to keep in touch and present to those around them’. Users can do this without privacy fears should they carry it upon themselves to become informed and to use the Internet responsibly. The web world has opened up phenomenal opportunities in the way of communication and global sharing, and although similar to the majority of things, this includes its threats, we are able to use social network sites and e-commerce without fear when we are responsible, clued-up and Internet savvy.