Is Privacy Possible?

Yes, privacy is possible – if you don’t get a Facebook page, don’t open a Twitter account, don’t comment on web pages, limit your e-mail and internet use and don’t create profiles or blogs. Two of my best friends live this way – granted, it’s tougher to contact them but they also understand that when they see my name pop up on their cell phone that I am not calling them to tell them about an awesome video I just saw on YouTube or to tell them that I am at a certain restaurant with friends – they know that I am contacting them for a real reason that means something to them. These friends are able to filter the information that they deal with down to the point where they avoid the “nonsense” of most Facebook posts (let’s face it, I really have no desire to see a picture of your cat and I am honestly amazed that you received 25 comments on the picture within the last hour – and one of them was from me! – true story, it happened last weekend).  

Marshal Kirkpatrick states that he does not “buy” Facebook’s excuse that they changed their privacy settings to reflect a change in social norms (found here). Yet Facebook’s newer technology of allowing people to “check in” has exploded in recent months. So let me get this straight, you are upset that the “pages” that you “like” can be seen by anyone yet you have no problem with the entire world knowing that you just “checked in” at a local strip club or that you are visiting your parents 3 states away and your house is empty or that you drank so much last night that you have the worst hangover ever…….? If you are relying on Facebook or other social media sites to act as an arbiter of personal responsibility, please don’t hold your breathe

On the other hand, Mike Gotta (found here) argues that “Only grudgingly will they (social networking providers) be transparent when it comes to options available to manage privacy settings” which I find to be 100% true as increased privacy works against their goal of getting users to “share” everything. Is this a good thing or bad thing? Think about it this way, you are an attorney, do you share your client list with other firms? No. Do you share your client list with other clients? Probably not. But, would you like other firms and your clients to share their client lists with you? Absolutely. Not only would you want them to share their lists you would also ask for a contact name and e-mail for every client that they referred you to. So, as an attorney, you would want total privacy of your own information yet you would love to have complete access to everyone else’s information – double edged sword right? From a social media user standpoint, would you use Facebook if it took you 5 minutes to find your friend? Nope. 3 minutes? Nope. 3 seconds – Yes, and that is why you use it. In other words, you want privacy but you want to have access to information concerning all of your friends, family and interests at your fingertips with no limitations…..

In the end, I do agree with the notion that social network providers are driving the messaging and notion that “Privacy is Dead” and that only people in certain demographic groups are concerned about privacy (found here) due to the fact they need to convince their masses of users to share as much as possible while limiting as little as possible. Are there ways that social media consumers can leverage their power as uses to ensure their own privacy? In my opinion, of course there are ways, but this complex issue will most likely only be addressed by providers when consumers stop using or limit the use of their product OR if providers find a way to remain profitable and relevant while maintaining high levels of privacy for their users.

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2 thoughts on “Is Privacy Possible?

  1. Is it true that companies like Facebook care about how stringent an individual’s privacy settings are? I am not sure. I have mine set so that only “Friends” can see my pictures and posts, I don’t engage in “check ins” or even post frequently, and I almost never allow applications to access my information. Even despite my attempts to limit who can access my information from my actual profile page, the truth is that Facebook already has much of the income-generating information it needs from of me. When I first signed up for a Facebook account, certain demographics, such as age, gender and location were collected, and this is what generates the company’s revenue because this is the information it uses for targeted advertising. That’s why, when I updated my relationship status to being “in” one, I began receiving regular ads for engagement rings.

    To say that social media corporations are “bending to social norms”, which implies they are taking a hit to keep their users happy, by allowing individuals tighter control over their visible profile settings is a bit of a stretch. I don’t think Mark Zuckerberg and his board members care two hoots about whether you can see the pictures I shamelessly post of my cat. What they care about is that they know I am a 30-year-old female who lives in Decatur and has a boyfriend… cha-ching.

    There you go, Erik. You have a long comment.

  2. Erik,

    Rebecca raises an interesting point – to a point. Mark Zuckerberg probably doesn’t care about her privacy settings and he does care about the information she has to give him to create her Facebook account. But only because he sells that information to those of us who do Facebook ads and want our ads to go to the demographic groups that are most likely to be interested in our products. Regular old PR and Marketing – but on steroids.

    You did a nice job pulling the major issues out of the articles. We will be taking on the issue of marketing and nonprofits in the coming weeks. Just a technical hint – when you highlight a section of text – like “found here” and then click the link button in the tool bar (like chain link fence) a window opens for you to enter the long url and select open in new window. That gives you the link without the ugly url messing up your prose.

    You have hit on a very central issue here also. The battle between our desire to have our privacy and our desire to have what we want when we want. It’s really about your privacy versus my privacy. Your perception of truth versus my perception of truth. An interesting dilemma for those of us working on social media in nonprofit organizations. And then there is the VOLUME of the information we get. Signal to noise ratio – you might find it interesting. Good job.

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