Privacy and the internet don’t really go hand in hand. People will tell you cautionary tales about that – “once it’s on the internet…!” Yup, you’ve heard the horror stories.
Ever notice how personalized those ads are on the right hand side bar? Your information is shared with outside parties. Surprisingly, not too many people seem bothered by this. When asked about Facebook privacy, a friend of mine, Hayden, had replied: “I don’t really care about apps and advertisers having my ‘general info.’ It’s not like individual people looking at my page wanting to cyber-stalk me, so it doesn’t feel creepy or anything.” My other friend Abby had nothing but positive things to say about Facebook privacy – “My parents have been bugging me about adding them on Facebook for ages. With the new privacy settings, I feel like I have more control over what I can share with people in my friends list and networks. I can individualize customize settings on albums or statuses or photos that I don’t want my parents to see. They don’t know half the things that I do on there.”
Hayden and Abby’s views are not at all unique. We surveyed a few other students as well and visited online forums, and have come to the conclusion that generally people are okay with advertisers having their basic information as long as they are still able to regulate what their personal contacts have access to. In this article from the Huffington Post talking about new privacy issues on Facebook occurring this past February, we saw that though many readers’ comments were angry, most defended Facebook saying, “Facebook is a company and this is just business,” “No big deal. Just opt out.” “You still have personal privacy settings, don’t worry,” etc. If you Google “Facebook Privacy Issues 2011” only at the bottom of the page do you find links to mainsteam media like the LA Times and CBS, but even those articles are just about Facebook responding to claims or explaining why the site is safe and wonderful. It appears that we all drank the Kool-Aid and are totally Team Facebook.
This then leads to a much larger question. Why are we comfortable providing information about ourselves to random companies, but feel the need to hide our pictures and posts (that we’re sharing on a public domain to begin with anyway)?
Looking back at the research we did for our draft two weeks ago, we found that media coverage about Facebook invading users’ privacy has decreased as dependency on the site increased. Now the stories on major news sources are either like those described above or about how users are violating each others’ privacy (i.e. cyber bullying and stalking). Now that Facebook is such a part of mainstream society, people seem to be willing to accept the site’s privacy policies and instead turn on other users. Facebook is the hero trying to keep us safe. In the beginning on the month, Facebook even released new anti-bullying tools with the support of the White House.
Facebook, once portrayed by the media as a great villain invading our daily lives, is now a great online protector as Mark Zuckerberg and Obama fight to stop bullying.
For next week, we’ll look further into how Facebook’s public image has changed since 2005 and how users are responding to Facebook’s announcements. We’ll dig through archives on Facebook’s blog and Mark Zuckerberg’s page to find privacy announcements and how users responded not only to the announcement, but to each others’ reactions. We’ll also be continuing to attempt with someone on staff at Facebook to see what their approach to public relations and user feedback regarding privacy has been through the years.
- Kristen Kim and Elizabeth Connerat