Privacy and anonymity are two hot button subjects. But for all the moral panic associated with it, very few people are making use of the privacy options available to them. On top of that, at the end of the day, privacy is not something you control anyway. It’s something contained within your network.
The social network all of us are on (except for my friend Meg, whose graduate research includes online privacy. That’s telling.) Did you know that Facebook has over 140 privacy settings? Have you EVER looked into them? I mean really gone through and decided on some options?
Most haven’t. I can count on one hand the number of people I’m connected with on Facebook who have locked anything down. Yet most people freak out about what’s accessible about them online, and usually it’s pointing at Facebook as some evil source. Well, guess what? Facebook isn’t doing anything that’s completely new. Take, for example, the current outrage over photograph tagging.
Facebook’s new tool (well, it’s been around a while, it’s only just getting some press) suggests friends tag each other in uploaded images, based on facial recognition technology. This is not new. Facial recognition has been around for a long time. The quality of it is kind of dodgy – much like a cousin of voice-recognition software, but it’s not some new evil thing that Facebook dreamed up.
My issue is that yes, you should definitely be ensuring other people in your network are not tagging you in pictures, especially if they are unflattering or unfair – or even if they are not you! But you need to do more than that, and you should already have been doing it. You should look through the privacy settings. You should also make pictures you’re tagged in available only to friends on Facebook – and that’s if you only friend people you really know. Why? Most pictures uploaded to Facebook appear to be taken at parties and larger social gatherings. If you are not enthusiastic about every image of you coming up in a Google search being one where you have a beer/wine in your hand, blotchy cheeks, or worse – dancing on a table, then you should probably avoid them being taken, or at least avoid them being openly and easily Google-able.
On top of that, you need to be responsible as part of the social network too.
Stop tagging people
Yes, stop tagging other people in pictures. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. If you would like to be tagged, do it yourself, and give others the courtesy of tagging themselves too. Everyone has a different level of comfort with the amount of information out there in cyberspace about them. Don’t step on people’s toes by assuming they would like to be tagged. Unless the picture is of them with Brad Pitt. Then that’s totally fine.
Don’t out people’s locations
It’s pretty easy to work out where people are from the content of their tweets or posts. If it’s March and I’m saying I’m loving choosing my showbags, or complaining about the price of rides, you could guess that I’m at the Easter Show. But check-ins are not okay for anyone other than yourself. Brag about where you are, and that you’re with friends, sure. But if one of your friends has an AVO out against someone, they might not appreciate you saying exactly who you’re with and where you are. I’m guessing. (That’s another Facebook privacy setting, actually. You might want to look into that.)
Ultimately, your privacy online is about as reliable as keeping a private journal and leaving it in a library, hoping nobody reads it. Luckily for most of us, people could care less most of the time. We’re all so fixated on ourselves we don’t have time to stalk other people. But it helps both you and others in your social network to ensure you lock down some parts of your online presence a little – it might give you the extra five minutes, or a few google page views down, that could mean getting the job you wanted, or stopping that freaky stalker from coming within five feet of you. And that’s got to be a good thing.
Privacy Settings: to stop people from tagging your image and location in Facebook
1. Go to your front page, and click on Account which is on the top right hand corner.
2. From the drop-down menu, click Privacy Settings.
3. At the bottom of the table, click Customize Settings.
4. Scroll down to Things Others Share, and change “Suggest photos of me to friends” and “Friends can check me into places” to a setting you’re comfortable with.
5. Explore other areas of Facebook’s privacy settings, and make other changes you feel necessary.