Is There Privacy in an Online Social World?

By Rich Blank posted 09-23-2011 13:50


With the recent introduction of Google+, the big hype was around "Circles".   Facebook's response was to improve the friends lists.   Either way, these features raise the question of whether or not privacy can exist in an online social world?   Is this type of "grouping" really just a false sense of security?

For those who actually use Google+ consistently, you already have seen how Circles allow people to decide who to share what with.   My first impression of Google Circles was that it took simply too much effort to decide what circles I should have and who should be in them...let alone deciding what information I should share with which circle.   Of course, if you are like me, you logged in a few times to Google+, compared and contrasted to Facebook, and went back to your daily life on Facebook.

Now Facebook has quickly answered Google+ with enhancements to their friends list and microblog posting.  They now allow sharing with smart lists, close friends, or acquaintences.   A little easier and less thinking.  However, I still don't have time to decide who is a close friend or not....nor do I want to offend anyone by not including them as a close friend.....nor do I want Facebook to decide that for me in a list that pretends to be smarter than me.   

The point here is email or text messages, social networks provide an electronic record of your activity, conversation, or relationship.   EVERYTHING you post in an online world is documented.   If you are engaged in some inappropriate behavior and decide to only share that with a few close friends, what you post or where you checkin can be used against you in a court of law.  Updating your Facebook status or sending a text message to a friend while driving a car?   Someone will know should you get into an accident or cause harm to someone else.   It's also likely that a "close" friend or colleague shares what you thought was a private post with someone else outside the circle.   What happens if you demote someone "outside the circle"?   It doesn't matter if it's your personal or professional life.   These high school social games simply extend themselves into the online world and will eventually cause more problems than they solve. 

Social technology is about bringing a level transparency and visibility to the conversations, activities, and relationships we engage in day-to-day.   I'm all for privacy and not releasing my personal information out to the public.  However, I also fully realize that by voluntarily sharing my resume on LinkedIn, posting something to "close" friends on Facebook or some Circle, that my words, my link, my post, my picture, my video can wind up on CNN news or the front page of the New York Times.   Again, social is no different from email or any electronic form of communication.  What we thought was a private electronic message to a friend or colleague can easily turn into front page headlines or evidence in court. 

The takeway here is to simply educate yourselves and your children that anything you decide to share with the world electronically is just that .... shared with the world.....don't buy into a false sense of privacy provided by Facebook or Google or any other electronic means of communication.

#Google+ #socialcomputing #facebook