Is social media out of control?

I was on YouTube the other day looking for some dance videos, when I saw my 5yr old dancing her little heart out. I was horrified. Some overly enthusiastic parent had recorded one of the dance sessions from her class and posted it on YT. I don’t know what bothered me more, that I wasn’t asked for permission or the belief that children’s classrooms should be off-limits. The video is innocuous but it’s the principle, where do you draw the line between what’s private and what’s public?

On Global Privacy Day yesterday, Erick Schonfield from Techcrunch provided some insights from Microsoft’s recent study on customer attitudes towards online privacy and the findings are very telling and especially this one,

Once their data is online, they know that it is gone.  They say, “I need to have this value, but I’m not sure my risks are being covered.”

Have we all collectively gone nuts? Are we really so desperate to be ‘connected’ that we’re willing to risk our personal information to do it? We barely talk to our neighbors but we’re so willling to give random strangers online, the details of our personal life. It’s still shocking to me how many people add their birthdates, where they live, where they work, etc. to social networking sites. And that’s okay if you only share information with friends but when you’re adding everyone in the online world to your ‘friends’ list, how long before your information is abused by some cyber-criminal?

While we the users are behaving irrationally and irresponsibly, the social sites have been equally apathetic. Their response hasn’t been all that re-assuring either and their approach has been mostly reactive than proactive.

Twitter is working on an authentication protocol for third-party developers intended to make the site more secure, which sounds like a step in the right direction but begs the question: why it took them so long to react to a series of account hijackings? Popular blogger Louis Gray has Twittered about scamsters setting roost on Facebook, but there isn’t much transparency into what FB’s doing about it.

Identity theft-prevention experts urge consumers not to reveal too much personal information and privacy advocates are fighting for our right to keep our personal life..well..private, we are too busy tweeting every detail of our mundane lives and sharing our passwords with strange, unvetted strangers. Social media is still the wild wild west without any defined rules of engagement and we are changing the rules and making new ones up as we go along. As social media mature and users realize that following or befriending ten thousand strangers doesn’t make our social life any more fulfilling, rational thinking will (hopefully) prevail and we will start taking our privacy that much more seriously.


6 responses to “Is social media out of control?

  1. “Social Media” is fine. People are crazy. But other poeple–like you–can sound the alarm, then we can spread the alarm viral-like and keep those crazy people honest. That guy probably just didn’t think–posting is so easy, so do it!

    Oh well.

    This blog is getting more comment on Social Median:

    ps – Name spelling note: TechCrunch’s guy is Erick Schonfeld.

    • Hi Eric,
      Your comment brought a smile to my face 🙂 You’re so right, it’s not the media itself but rather the (mis)use of it. People are so excited that they can, they don’t stop to think if they should. Thanks for the link to the comments on Social Median and the spelling correnction, I will fix that.

  2. I think you are right and wrong. I blogged about this myself – both from the personal and the government perspective, , based on the Pew Future of the Internet in 2020 study. There is a generational view that must be accounted for and a personal orientation as well. The digital natives are not expecting the privacy prior generations expected. Nor do they take measures to maintain it, as you point out. For them, the “power of peer” is the superseding the privacy aspects. So, before we say they are right or wrong for doing so, you must consider that the values of those who are sharing more than we feel comfortable with – or we feel is safe – may be fundamentally different than our own.

    Hermione1 – twitter
    Cristene Gonzalez Wertz
    IBM Institute for Business Value

    • Hi Cristene,
      You raise a valid point. I read your blog post and it’s quite insightful. There are two parts to my commentary and one is related to rights of minors in the digital world. There is a very good reason why we have laws for protection of minors. What someone does with their children’s photos is their business, however, as a parent, they shouldn’t be sharing any information on my child on an open site like YouTube without my consent. What bothered me a great deal is that this video was taken in a private classroom setting and not on a public stage or in a park, where you don’t have any expectation of privacy.
      Second part of the post is around ‘throw-caution-to-the-winds’ herd mentality that is condoned and even encouraged by champions of social media. I am not questioning anyone’s values but pointing out that there are inherent risks to being too open. We’re not just talking about an employer finding out sordid pictures but more serious risks like identify theft, account takeovers, and possible stalking. It’s naive to think that we’re somehow immune to these risks just because we’re online and just because everyone else is doing it, so it must be okay.

  3. Mia,

    I think the caution to the wind attitude comes from the fact that if everybody’s information is out there, what are the chances that mine will be targeted? There has to be a reason for somebody to hone in on your particular info either just to invade your privacy or to unethically take advantage of having information about you. I don’t know if there is a way to mine such info off of various accounts on Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter. That would be really dangerous.


    • Hi Atul,
      Great to hear from you! It has been a while. I think the last time we connected was over Sanjaya’s hairdo, I think?! I hear he’s back with a new book and the hair’s flatter 🙂
      You’ve raised a great point! I guess there is comfort in being part of the herd and being one of many. We’ve already seen that its possible to spread viruses through Facebook messages and Twitter accounts have been hacked into already, so we know hackers and cybercriminals are already at work. I just hope the sites evolve and beef up their security faster than the hackers do.

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