Privacy Issues and Facebook

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The growing popularity of information technologies has significantly altered our world, and in particular, the way people interact. Social networking websites are becoming one of the primary forms of communication used by people of all ages and backgrounds. No doubt, we have seen numerous benefits from the impact of social media communication: We can easily meet and stay in touch with people, promote ourselves, and readily find information. However, these changes prompt us to consider how our moral and political values can be threatened. One common fear among users is that their privacy will be violated on the web. In her book, Privacy in Context, Helen Nissenbaum suggests a framework for understanding privacy concerns online. She focuses particularly on monitoring and tracking, and how four “pivotal transformations” caused by technology can endanger the privacy of our personal information. One website that may pose such a threat is Facebook.

With more than 500 million active users, the site is a warehouse of personal information. Personal profiles allow users to provide information about their name, age, hometown, relationship status, activities, job, school, and more. They can connect with the others’ profiles and become ”friends”. Combined with a profile picture, you can pretty much learn anything you want to know about somebody over Facebook (should they choose to provide the information). However, what many users fail to realize is that in most cases this information is not only available to their “friends”. Though users can change their privacy settings to limit with whom their profile information is shared, the site gathers and stores more than most of us want to acknowledge. For instance, the Facebook “Like” butto...

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... led to a diversification of the people who create and maintain them. This can be anyone. Putting personal information into the hands of a stranger is risky outside of the Internet, but even more so online. The ease and speed of the mobility of information means no information is safe on Facebook. Anyone who can see it can copy, save, or redistribute the information at will. A broad and deep aggregate source of information makes search and retrieval of anything posted on Facebook quick and easy. If somebody wants information about you they know how and where to look. Finally, this information can be passed along and analyzed in order to draw conclusions about you and your lifestyle. These can be stereotypical and false. Facebook and other social media sites, and more broadly information technology in general has greatly impacted our lives and our right to privacy.

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