Privacy has been a sizzling hot topic for social media users over the past couple of years. The various services and websites have all taken unique approaches to privacy, some catering more to the users, and others taking liberties to leave doors open for future business and revenue opportunities.
This week, two separate topics came to my attention, both related to privacy, and I absolutely felt it necessary to share and comment here on Return On Now.
Careful Who You “Friend”
Breaking news from Raw Story this week reported that the federal government has had “persona” software commissioned. This software is to be used for “classified social media activities.” Essentially, this software can allow a user / company / government to create small (or large) armies of “virtual personas”. To top it off, these virtual personas are not only generated, but built out with additional information like life/work/education history, and even faux geo-location information such as physical check-ins on location based services.
Now, I’m not one to throw stones before understanding the full story, but doesn’t this sound a bit concerning to you? Specific issues I have with this:
- This is an outright violation of privacy when used to collect information about social media users.
- Since social media is heavily influenced by activity, buzz, viral sharing, etc., this opens a door to manipulation of public opinion and even the very messages to which we are exposed.
- It’s just plain deceptive! [Y'know, the kind of stuff that would've resulted in detention in our school days.]
As concerning as this may be, we really have no way to respond except for using common sense. Don’t say anything on social media that you wouldn’t announce publicly. Exhibit control when reacting to emotional topics. And most importantly of all, only accept friend requests from people you actually know.
Just this week, I got a friend request on Facebook from someone named Barley Jang. I’ve never heard of the name, they have no photo to show me who they are, and we have no friends in common…not a single one! In fact, after seeing the above article and receiving this request, Ms. Jang (or faux person extraordinaire, perhaps?) served as inspiration for this blog post. So at least there’s that.
But I’m still clicking “Not Now” on that one just to be safe. [Barley, if you are a real person, please reach out to me directly and I will happily eat my words.]
Petition to Google and Facebook
You may or may not be familiar with a group called Demand Progress, but you should most certainly be aware of their current hot button. Basically, Demand Progress runs online campaigns to raise awareness of what is going on in the “back room” of Congress, and helps the public get a voice in such activities.
Their current campaign is aimed at Google and Facebook. According to the website, both companies hand over personal data to the federal government for any legal request, but without ever even notifying the user of the request in the first place!
If you recall, Twitter stood firm about not revealing user information when the WikiLeaks fiasco came to a head. What did they do? After receiving the request, Twitter first contacted the users to notify them of it. Regardless of how the situation turns out, Julian Assange and the whole team at WikiLeaks had a fair chance to challenge the request before the data was handed over.
Don’t you want the same thing for your own personal data? It’s not about guilty or innocent, it’s about personal rights.
If you want to have your voice heard, sign the petition on the Demand Progress website today.
- How the government plans to exploit social media to invade your privacy!!! (keniemoses.wordpress.com)
- Army of Fake Social Media Friends to Promote Propaganda (pcworld.com)
- What Ever Happened to Privacy? Insight into Internet Privacy with Rebecca Herold (Part 1) (h30501.www3.hp.com)
- Special Series: Online Privacy (pbs.org)