Thursday, October 21, 2010

Comm Tech Final Essay: 'FaceFraud'

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. 

One Social Network in particular that demonstrates this lack of Privacy Policy knowledge is in fact the world’s most popular Social Networking Site, Facebook. With an enormous user rate of 550,000,000, more than six times the amount of the second ranking Social Network Site, Facebook has proven to be the most popular and effective website used for online communication. Created in 2004 by Harvard Student, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook was initially constructed to target University students. It was designed to provide a network through which these University students could communicate with one another and form online groups. Six years later, Facebook has become a worldwide cyber phenomenon and now attracts users of all ages and ethnicities while still being a prime source for University and organisation promotion and advertisement.

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.   



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Online Journals:

Thursday, October 14, 2010

WEEK 9- Chosen essay Question

For my essay I have chosen the following topic:

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).

Why did I choose this topic to write on?...
Because I believe this is the most relevant topic to not only myself as an individual but our generation of social-networking dependant people as a whole. In particular, it is evident that our generation is strongly dependant on the use of social networking service FACEBOOK. Our generation has grown a dependance on facebook for communication and a simply and FREE way to express ourselves, advertise events and track down people that we may have lost contact with. One big problem that I believe is left unnoticed with Facebook is privacy. It is apparent through my own personal facebook investigation that many people are not aware of the ways in which we can protect the content we post on our facebook profiles. Many people I know in particular, have profiles which are unknowingly able to be viewed by anyone, anywhere! I felt the desire to touch on this topic for this essay as I believe it is an issue which is swept under the rug, and the youth of our society is far too uninformed of the consequences which can come with such ignorance.