There Is No Such Thing As Privacy On The Internet

The generation of teenagers, students, and young adults that have grown up with the rapid development of SNS are essentially writing the history book of dangerous repercussions these sites have. In the New York Times article For Some, Online Persona Undermines a Résumé, Alan Finder talks about how interviewers are looking applicants up on SNS searching for “risqué or teasing photographs and provocative comments about drinking, recreational drug use and sexual exploits.” Though these interviewers may not be directly linked (via Friends or Followers) on SNS, there are still ways they can gain access to profiles.

The element of “privacy” is what comes into play here, and it is one that is very controversial. In Social Steganography: Privacy in Networked Publics, boyd and Marwick say that “every teenager wants privacy;” however, this privacy has been taken away with the advent of social media- like it or not. Therefore, the message that needs to be ingrained in all SNS user’s brains is that once something is posted, it is out for the world to see no matter what privacy settings are in place.

SNS are created to allow users to interact, and not until now are we seeing that these interactions more often than not are being viewed by our nightmare audiences. Though laws can be enforced to prevent these privacy concerns, I think that it is more important to educate users, rather than put limits on behavior.The government can enforce what is legal and illegal to post on the internet, but it can also enforce what age is legal to drink, and who actually abides by that? I think the issue at stake is that kids and teenagers need to be more aware about the implications of their actions.

Rebekah Willett explains in her article, As soon as you get on Bebo you just go mad, that SNS are meeting young people’s need for independence, and provides a platform for their growing dependence on peers for support and increasing exploration of identity. Therefore, for young users to safely and harmlessly “write themselves into being” they need to be more meaningfully educated on what exactly the harms are.

Something that we are beginning to see now is college aged students who have experienced problems with inappropriate Facebook posts or pictures that are preventing them from achieving things in the workplace. Essentially, this generation is the first generation that social media has hit hard, and I think that the path that has been set will be a good one to use to educate children at a younger age with more “real” examples.

In Why Youth ❤ Social Network Sites, danah boyd explains the four properties of networked publics- persistence, searchability, replicability, and invisible audiences.  These four concepts are what essentially are diminishing privacy for all because once a user posts a photo (or anything) on their SNS for their immediate network to see, technology has created an environment where other users could do whatever they desire with that photo. For example, my sister has a YouTube video of her that her friend posted on Facebook. Both people tagged in the video had very limited profiles. The next day, an unknown person uploaded that video from Facebook to YouTube and within a week had over one million views. The video is funny to the public, but humiliating to my sister. Something that was “private” was made very public with the click of a button, and now, when you search my sisters name on Google, those websites come up before her Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. For someone in the midst of a job search, a video of something taken completely out of context but shines a very negative light on her is not very beneficial thing to be linked to.

I feel like when I was first interacting with MySpace and AIM as a middle schooler I was only given safety precautions about older sexual predators. I never was worried about them because I only interacted with people I knew and I felt like the people who were involved in those stories were always distantly located from me. However, in our current society we have much more applicable examples and reasons one should maintain a “cleaned-up” profile.

No one really believes something until it actually hits home with them, and that is true for the majority of our society. Live and learn, they say. Our parents all tried to tell us how our actions online would effect our actions offline, but did anyone actually listen? No, because no one takes that seriously until their friend gets kicked off the college sports team because a NCAA official found Facebook pictures of underage drinking or their sister got kicked out of her sorority because she had a YouTube video that made a bad name for her chapter. Not until then will users clean up their online lives.

“This is really the first time that we’ve seen that stage of life captured in a kind of time capsule and in a public way,” the CEO of Experience Inc. says. “It [SNS] has its place, but it’s moving from a fraternity or sorority living room. It’s now in a public arena.” A group marketing manager for Microsoft said that “For the first time ever, you suddenly have very public information about almost any candidate… And that it’s becoming very much a common tool.”

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1 Comment

  1. Matt Gorman

     /  March 30, 2012

    I liked your post because it brings up an issue we all have to deal with–finding a balance between trying to look ‘cool’ online and keeping it clean for the general public to see. Like you pointed out though, this isn’t how we used to look at it, especially back when we were all in middle school and as far as we knew, the only thing to worry about online was sexual predators. By the time high school rolled around, I feel like most people saw plenty of friends have some sort of repercussions for online activity, so we learned the lesson of internet privacy the hard way.

    Nowadays, most people know that what they post online could potentially be seen by anyone despite having strong privacy settings. In fact, as we’ve all heard, some employers are even asking for people’s Facebook passwords during the interview process so they can see how people portray themselves online. While this seems to be taking it a step too far, it brings up the important reminder that if you wouldn’t want the ‘nightmare audience’ to see it, you probably shouldn’t post it online.

    I think it would be interesting to take a look at the other side of the article you posted–where someone’s online profile could actually help or complement their resume. For instance, if you’re a finance student and your Twitter feed is mostly about business and current trends, it shows that you’re staying informed with what you claim to like, and would most likely make a good impression for an employer.


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