If you’re that concerned about privacy, why are you on Facebook?

I’m deviating from my normal topics on Photography to address this issue. It is my response to the many updates, articles, and opinions about privacy settings on Internet web sites.

When we hear about them tapping our phones, checking our bank records, we don’t trip. However, let Facebook use our photo for marketing purposes and we cry “foul” and fear the sky is falling. Where are our priorities and can we get some perspective? We continue to provide more personal information in public forums. We post videos, write blogs, upload photos and continually reveal personal information about ourselves for public consumption. Yet, we crave privacy for the very things we make publicly available.

We must ask what content do we want to make available and why. Also, what are the risks if the information entered the public domain (i.e., what would happen if it went beyond FB)? Only answering these questions can we begin to determine what the proper dissemination levels should be. No privacy policy on any web site will ever ease our anxiety without putting into context the information we reveal about ourselves.

I initially learned about Facebook several years ago when a beauty pageant winner had personal photos intended for her friends only become available to the press and other media outlets. She was asked, “Why did you post the photos?” She kept reverting to the fact that they were for her friends only. I was floored that someone would “upload” such personal photos onto the Internet. We tend to forget that the first part of a web address stands for “World Wide Web”. This implies no matter where we are in the world, we’re all connected—somebody, somewhere can get to us. Ultimately, she kept her crown and she stated she learned a valuable lesson.

I view the pageant winner and other young adult’s rationale about privacy as naivety from a generation that didn’t grow up without the Internet. They believe privacy comes from the click of a button in the settings menu. With that mentality, many people have seen their personal dalliances become fodder for the national news programs. As someone whose childhood and formidable years were established long before Mark Zuckerberg was even born (The founder of Facebook), my parents, friends, and experiences taught me the importance of discretion. It is not based on data encryption or software settings.

I joined Facebook despite my initial trepidation. I reconnected with many friends from college, high school, middle and elementary school since that time. It’s truly remarkable considering many of those connections happened while I’m thousands of miles away in Europe. I also immersed myself into other social media venues where I display and discuss my passion for photography.

http://www.Moore-Images.com/blog

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mooreimages/

http://www.twitter.com/MooreImages

http://moore-images.smugmug.com/ – Going away May, 2010

Even with all my various Internet accounts and activities, I closely guard what is available. On my Flickr account, I use no privacy controls, so anyone can view those images. I place my email logo as a way to protect against someone copying my images and inadvertently claiming it as their own. That’s the only form of control I use. I do not put any family photos on that web site, because the images are publicly available for anyone to view. That is truly “Public” information. Any photos of my family, I put on the Facebook or Smugmug account because they’re tightly controlled. Those images are for the FB community. That is what I call, “Privileged” information. Some captured moments include us around the house in pajamas or with the girls’ wild hairstyles. Those photos and videos are “Private” and will not be on any web site.

This leads me to my point about the aspect of privacy or materials we deem “private”. There are four categories that deal with information about us and this is how we should deal with it.

The categories are PUBLIC, PRIVILEGED, PRIVATE, and SECRET. As you view these categories you may have an idea as to what they mean to you.

Public – This is a simple and basic as it gets. This is information we all know about one another or what we see based on our interaction (name, age, workplace, schooling, etc.) It is information we don’t mind sharing.

Privileged – This is information that is publicly available. However, we do not disclose it for security or other personal reasons. We share these things with people we trust or because we trust the forum we’re using. Facebook does a decent job in securing this information. However, they have 350+ million users. Do not assume because you marked it “private” that it’ll never be publicly available.

Private – This information is only shared amongst those we trust. It pertains to specific issues or the disclosure of the information could cause harm (bank accounts, health records, personal experiences, photos or videos displaying compromising situations, etc.). Certain photos and videos belong on Facebook as much as your bank records do. If you’re in a private setting, you may share these items, but NOT over the Internet.

Secret – This is information you keep to yourself only the parties directly involved know of it and unless you’re getting your polygraph taken, you disavow any knowledge of the situation.

Here’s a scenario of using the four categories in Facebook.

PUBLIC – You’re getting married. You provide statuses about the situation. You start a blog about the progress. That is public information you don’t mind sharing.

PRIVILEGED – You have photos and videos of the wedding day. You decide to post those on Facebook only because of the intimate nature of the event.

PRIVATE – You fly to Las Vegas and take photos and videos of the wedding night. KEEP THAT OFF FACEBOOK.

SECRET – Some activities that happened in Las Vegas stay in Las Vegas!

BOTTOM LINE

We join social networks so that we can be found. At least, I did. I’m glad I reconnected with so many old friends and I’m able to share my life with them! I know it is important to control the information dissemination via Facebook privacy and security settings. We all have an image to maintain or a “brand” to protect. People removed tags on my photos and asked me to remove photos altogether. However, we must realize once we join these web sites we’re putting ourselves on display. The information we release is vulnerable to exploitation because no system is 100% secure. When I read some of the news articles and user statuses about Facebook, people act as if the web site is displaying SSN, checking account details, old skeletons or secret rendezvous.

We relinquish true security and privacy the moment we click the “Upload” button. If you have anything on Facebook that concerns you that much, take it down or remove it from your profile. With that said, use “common sense” and ask yourself, “If this material circulated beyond my control, what would be the consequences?” If SunTrust, Bank of America, or any other financial institution allow the public to search and obtain our account numbers, please contact me, otherwise save the Chicken Little status alerts!

I welcome any and all comments.

-Roger

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One thought on “If you’re that concerned about privacy, why are you on Facebook?

  1. Your blog was very informative and it allowed me the opportunity to reconsider joining Facebook. I’m a babyboomer and very apprehensive of the social website. Perhaps now with your detailed information I can sign up and know how to use it. Thank you.

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