FaceFraud: Social Network Privacy Issues
Q: Why is privacy such a contentious issue for Internet users? Discuss with reference to at least ONE social network service (or other web2.0 service).
Seeing that little red notification flag pop up on your Internet Browser stating that one of your ‘friends’ has commented on a photo, written on your wall or invited you to an event is a feeling of inconceivable joy for some. It is this use or arguably ‘overuse’ of social networking in the 21st century that has somewhat defined Generation Y as the technology-dependant generation that it is, obsessed with the approval of others and a “narcissist fascination with self-display”.
Since the beginning of the century, the world has seen the establishment and rapid incline of Social Networking sites otherwise known as ‘Virtual Communities’ such as Myspace, Friendster, Facebook and more recently, Twitter. It is through these Social Networking Sites that Internet junkies, averaging between the ages of 18 and 30, have sought out a cyber world in which they can communicate with others and maintain relationships by sharing photos, archiving events, getting updates on activities and posting public testimonials.
When entering a virtual community, one must understand that this is a world much different to that of an ‘offline’ world, where relationships are developed face to face in a ‘what you see is what you get’ circumstance. When it comes to social networking, although users consider themselves ‘friends’ with the people that they meet online, they can never really be certain of the authenticity of that person and their true identity.
It is for this reason that Social Network Sites have implemented Trust and Privacy policies to protect Internet users so that any information that they do not want revealed to the public can be hidden from particular groups of people. Through these policies and data protection mechanisms, Internet users can be offered yet not guaranteed the same privacy found offline in the physical world. The number one problem evident with such privacy policies is that even though these policies exist and are in fact very effective, a large number of Social Network users are unaware and uneducated about how to apply such privacy settings to ensure their online profiles are being protected.
Although its success has been enormous, Facebook in fact has a poor reputation in terms of trust and privacy. Statistics show that 25% of all Facebook users have public profiles, most of who are unaware of it. This means that all information displayed on their profile including photos, date of birth, current destination and email address are viewable by not only anyone with a Facebook account , but anyone who has access to the internet. If someone’s Facebook profile is not protected, internet hackers otherwise known as “cyber criminals” can break into a user’s account, get credit card information, steal their identity and trick them into revealing their online password using Malware which is “software designed to secretly access a computer system without the owner's informed content.”
An example of a case which demonstrates such an outcome of this lack of privacy protection comes from a Los Angeles woman named Diane Solomon who was out shopping when she received a message from a friend stating that someone was on her account claiming that they were in London and needed to be transferred an undisclosed amount money. Supposedly, this ‘cyber criminal’ was asking hundreds of Solomon’s Facebook friends for the money and some had in fact transferred it to the hacker. Unfortunately, this is only one case of many and far too many Facebook and other social network users have experienced the same identity fraud.
So why is it that after six years, Facebook still has not found a more effective way to help users maintain privacy? Is it simply that online users are narcissistic and like to be on display to all online users? Or is it that they are uneducated about such a simple procedure to ensure their online privacy? Either way, the facts remain that without online Trust and Privacy Procedures, Social Network users stand at risk.
In the Cyber World, we have seen society advance in yet another incredible way. Through Social Networks such as Facebook, companies have had the opportunity to promote their products and services, old friends have been able to re-connect and in some cases, love has been found simply from a single Facebook ‘poke’. With simple changes to such Social Networks as Facebook, Internet users can become better educated on how to maintain online Privacy and more importantly, the risks that stand if they choose to ignore it. By taking these small steps, we can ensure a better, safer, online community for generations to come.
- http://scholar.google.com.au/scholar?q=social+networking +privacy&hl=en&btnG=Search&as_sdt=2001&as_sdtp=o
- Anonymous, , 2010, Malware & Social Networking: Your Privacy is at Risk, PR Newswire, New Jersey.
- Whithead, J. 2010, Facebook, Issue 35, Facebook Inc, United Kingdom.
- Jones, H, 2005, Facebook: Threats to Privacy, Sydney
- Dwyer, C. 2007, Trust and Privacy Concerns Within Social Networking Sites: A Comparison of Facebook and Myspace, Chicago
- Govani, T, 2007, Student awareness of the privacy implications when using Facebook, Haymarket Business Publications LTD, UK.