With all the perks and benefits which come with the web – the straightforward networking ability, the access to real-time information from all of the world, the social networking phenomenon, the way we can approach an entire day without leaving our desks – with most of these wonderfully convenient and appealing aspects of the internet 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, seems to constantly be appearing at night news, at the office, as well as in an incredible number of blogs around the world. So is it something we must all be concerned with, or possibly is it another needless concern?
Should we care? Many feel that the younger generation, or the digital natives, hold a blas attitude to online privacy tips, not necessarily worrying about who or exactly what can access their property town, phone numbers, or general demographical information. Yet interestingly, a recent survey found that it must be actually the 18-35 year olds that will probably be tread the internet privacy waters more carefully than their older peers. It appears that although the younger demographic might be more easygoing about posting private details across their social network pages, they are also more likely to use the privacy settings in position to specifically dictate just who can access those private details. According to 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 media sites. Perhaps the reason being the majority are only using social media to maintain in contact with already existing friends – and privacy settings are adapted so that no others outside their ‘friend’ lists can access their information.
Unfortunately for Facebook, lately this has been making news headlines for the wrong reasons. Viruses are generating the rounds of Facebook pages, posing as ‘hilarious’ video links that seem to be to become posted on the wall by the friends, only to infect your computer and steal your sign in details in case you simply click them. Facebook recently introduced new privacy settings to permit users to improve control their online privacy, only to possess a backlash of complaints that the new settings were too complicated, with users confused and concerned over exactly how their personal information was used. There is even a ‘Quit Facebook Day’ founded mid 2010 in an effort to boycott the social network site because of the online privacy issue, but that was met using a lukewarm response through the site’s users. In May 2010, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder, released an announcement declaring that new and improved privacy settings were on their own way. With ‘privacy controls that are much simpler to use’ and ‘an great way to shut off all third-party services’, Facebook are trying to soothe their disgruntled users and set a stop towards the privacy breach rumours. A huge concern that continues to be is the fact even though the privacy settings are simpler to use, they are certainly not set as default – put simply, until you actively look for the privacy settings and alter them yourself, your profile, information and photographs are for sale to the general public. Which means that when we want be private, we have to learn how to get it done.
Holding us back – Social networks also have come under fire of late due to a number of terrible abductions along with other crimes who have resulted from users falling for disguises online. Chat rooms have long been a worry for parents, giving anyone from around the globe an outlet for direct communication with under-age Internet users. The other major gnbptu concern often stems from online purchasing. As e-commerce will continue to boom, unfortunately, so too perform the cases of identity theft, monetary theft and fraud. In fact, many think that the single thing holding back the e-commerce sector is the absence of consumer privacy protection online.
Education is vital – So does all this mean that we need to turn off our social network pages and refuse to get online? Interestingly, authorities often respond to public concerns within the risks of the web world by advising users to merely hide any information and then any personal information, or just not use certain websites. However perhaps it really is more realistic and sensible to advise Online users to coach themselves on the privacy settings in the websites they frequent and use, as well as be personally responsible and accountable since they participate in sharing online. Mark Zuckerberg believes that ‘people wish to stay connected and share with those around them’. Users are capable of doing this without privacy fears should they carry it upon themselves to get informed and to use the web responsibly. The online world has exposed phenomenal opportunities in the way of communication and global sharing, and although just like most things, this comes with its threats, we could use social networking sites and e-commerce without fear whenever we are responsible, clued-up and Internet savvy.