Privacy...

I generally do not think too much about online privacy concerns, and am often dismissive of most threats. Count me as one of the few and proud mac owners, who gleefully downloads whatever email attachment and visits whatever site with the knowledge my computer wont be infected. But after reading last weeks articles on privacy, and looking over my facebook security settings, I see my worry free attitude toward internet security has crossed over into the protection of my personal information. Prominently displayed on my facebok was my address, telephone number, fun facts like my love of Barack Obama, moderate political leanings, and my favorite musicians. Fine, for my friends, but I don't feel completely comfortable exposing those type of detail to anybody.

Danah Boyd's article, "Facebook's 'Privacy Trainwreck': Exposure, Invasion, and Drama," discusses the controversial "news feed" feature on facebook, which on one page, updates a user to the actions of all their friends on the site. She writes, "In the tech world, we have a bad tendency to view the concept of "private" as a single bit that is either 0 or 1. Either it's exposed or not. When companies make a decision to make data visible in a more "efficient" manner, there is often a panic". The privacy backlash that is emerging today, stems not from the uploading of personal information, but the shock by users how easy it is for anyone to retrieve it. Facebook buries privacy settings in the site, and does not advertise the ability of the user to hide information.

So why do people use facebook and other social networking sites, that know-lying open up information to the world? In Boyd's other article, "Why Youth (Heart) Social Network Sites," she describes the attraction youth have to such services. Many don't understand the risk in exposing themselves, nor comprehend the openness of the internet, and the way such services catalog and record material uploaded to their site. She describes how sites like myspace, have become a virtual hangout space, equivalent to the antiquated hangouts of arcades and malt shops. It is a place to connect, and young people more than other demo-graphs have always shown a desire to be in the know.

On social networking sites, users post items they find interesting, or entertaining to them. This frequently is in the form of web videos, from services like youtube. In Patricia Lange's study, "Publicly Private and Privately Public: Social Networking on YouTube," she examines how social networking is developing around video streaming services, where people can connect with each other through commenting about each others work. She also addressees how ones ability to control who sees a particular video, relies heavily on a system of tags, which the user uploading the content must specify, making search a defining way in which one can limit access to their work.

So, what effect did all these reading have on me? For one, I locked down my privacy settings on facebook, deleted some questionable content, and am now paranoid that if I ever run for political office, something I wrote a while back will come back to haunt me.

Good response! If nothing else, I'm glad the readings provoked you to think about managing your online identity...