Private Lives Played Out In Public

    Sam Mutimer

    There is no such thing as private life anymore, at least not online. The rise of social media has seen the line between private and public life become increasingly blurred. This has been accelerated by confusion around control over privacy settings.
    It has been argued that the responsibility to protect privacy online lies with the individual. Ultimately, we control our privacy. If you don’t want something to be revealed about you, don’t publish it on the Internet. This often gets forgotten. It is so easy to post an update that we generally don’t think about the consequences of doing so.
    The savvy social media user knows how to control their privacy settings. With over 500 million users on Facebook alone, not all can keep up. Can you blame us for getting confused about their 170+ privacy options?
    Parody website Openbook points the finger at Facebook’s complex and evolving security settings, which leave the user vulnerable. They argue that Facebook’s settings may cause users to inadvertently post to ‘everybody’ instead of just friends. When you sign up with the social networking giant, the default privacy settings are set to recommended. Essentially, everybody can see everything on your profile, including your bio and photos. Twitter also operates on an opt-out of data sharing service. Their option to protect tweets is unchecked by default. But how many users know this?
    I’m not here to condemn social networking because of a lack of privacy. Australian Internet Users spends 22% of their time online on social networking sites. There’s no denying that it is a large part of our online activity. I’m merely saying that more action needs to be taken to inform users of their rights and the dangers involved with sharing information online. Parents should educate their children, teachers should inform their students and colleagues should advise each other. We all learn the three R’s at school, why not add a fourth – risks associated with social networking. So, what are your thoughts here? Do you think schools should be covering this? Are you aware of all the privacy options on sites such as eg. facebook?