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Sharing is daring.

ASSESSED POST (WEEK 5):

 Analyse critically the following statement (0:26-0:39) by Mark Zuckerberg while comparing it to privacy issues raised by online social networking collaborative practices:

For someone as intelligent as Mark Zuckerberg, this statement seems awfully idealistic.

First, let’s tackle “when people have control over what they share, they want to share more.”  As much as I’d love to say that “sharing is caring”, when it comes to social networking privacy, the less you reveal, the better.  Just because we have “control” over what we reveal to our cyber buddies- or rather, we mindlessly ticked the ‘I agree to these terms and conditions’ box- doesn’t mean we necessarily fancy exposing all our personal details to those who are able to see it. Truth is, as well as being a successful tool for social communication and networking, Facebook is a multi-billion dollar business that uses data mining as a way of generating income through advertising.  As the website’s current privacy policy states, “we may use information about you that we collect from other Facebook users to supplement your profile (such as when you are tagged in a photo or mentioned in a status update). In such cases we generally give you the ability to remove the content (such as allowing you to remove a photo tag of you) or limit its visibility on your profile.” While this is true to a certain extent, although we can de-tag a picture, we can’t force the uploader to remove it. We can limit the visibility on our profile, but that doesn’t change the fact that status or photo is visible somewhere else. Additionally, we don’t have control over what information Facebook chooses to take from other users. Realistically, it could be stored anywhere. As Boyd (2008:18) states, “privacy is a sense of control over information, the context where sharing takes place, and the audience who can gain access.” This policy proves that not only do we not have full control over information, but we also cannot choose the context in which it is shared and ultimately, which third parties can gain access. Does this make me want to share more with Facebook now? Not so much!

Now to “when people share more, the world becomes more open and connected, and in a more open world, many of the biggest problems we face together will become easier to solve.” I’m not denying that the simplicity and accessibility of social networking has its perks. The amount of open Facebook events out there petitioning against important social issues such as animal cruelty and homophobia is fantastic to see, and so effective in raising awareness. But Zuckerberg is forgetting one key fact in this equation. The notion of ‘openness’ does not necessarily equate to honesty or, essentially, ‘friendship’. As Solove asserts, due to the association of online ‘friendship’ with social status and popularity, “a friend on a social network is not necessarily a close friend” (2008:26). In the spirit of online democracy and freedom, we are all treated equally.  But, as Solove critiques, “few social network sites allow users to distinguish between close friends and mere acquaintances.” (2008:27). Would we feel comfortable showing photos of our latest holiday to our best friend? For sure! But how about giving them to some random friend-of-a-friend you vaguely remember meeting out at a club one night? Mmm… I’m going to guess ‘no’ on that one. But unfortunately, that’s the way social networking collaborative practices operate.

Does allowing ambiguous acquaintances to hear how we hate cramming for exams or how excited we are for the Wombats concert truly assist mankind in “solving our biggest problems?” Seriously, Zuckerberg. It’s time for reality.  Surely increasing the availability of personal information raises more issues than it fixes.

Sources:

Boyd, Danah (2008). ‘Facebook’s Privacy Trainwreck: Exposure, invasion and Social Convergence’. Convergence: The International Journal into New Media Technologies 14.4.

Solove, Daniel J. (2008). ‘How the Free Flow of Information Liberates and Constrainus Us’. In The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumour and Privacy on the Internet. New Haven: Yale University Press.

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