As people post more and more about themselves, tag friends in photos, and take quizzes to find out which Disney princess, ice-cream flavor, or X-Men character they are, questions of privacy on Facebook become increasingly important. How secure is one’s profile? What happens to the status updates, the notes, and most importantly, the pictures people post?
In spite of these questions, Facebook continues to attract more users, and the users post more private information about themselves. To add to that, institutions and organizations are learning to weed through what people share to make determinations about them.
A blogger writes about two MIT students who developed what they termed project “Gaydar.” They use friend lists along with other information to figure out a person’s sexual orientation. Quoting a source, the blogger says the following:
“Even if you don’t affirmatively post revealing information, simply publishing your friends’ list may reveal sensitive information about you, or it may lead people to make assumptions about you that are incorrect,” said Kevin Bankston, senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit digital rights organization in San Francisco. “Certainly if most or many of your friends are of a particular religious or political or sexual category, others may conclude you are part of the same category – even if you haven’t said so yourself.”
Modern privacy begins with the understanding that personal information will be widely accessible. That’s as true for web 2.0 as it was for the early Internet, and for the telephone. It’s a paradox to be sure. Someone once said, “we must protect privacy to ensure the free flow of information.” That’s exactly right.
Privacy is essential to the survival of the whole of social media. While the social media site itself may make every effort to guard the user’s privacy, it can do very little about the information people freely post or the actions of other entities whose main goal is study that information and make determinations about people.