Privacy, social media and the perception of evil?

I’ve a very good friend, he tackles a wide range of issues from privacy to patents, proprietary software to open source and he does this very well.  He is incredibly well read, well sourced and maybe most important of all, passionate about his subjects.

We all hear in the media about the dangers of being online, privacy concerns et al and quite often the name Facebook comes to the fore.

Despite the warnings of my good friend and many others who share the same views, Facebook has continued to be huge.  It only takes a few seconds to find a horror story which involves Facebook in some way, but Facebook is not the issue here, it’s human behaviour.  I’ll explain why.

I think its common knowledge that the moment you put any information online, it becomes “at risk”.  I use Facebook to keep in touch with friends and family.  In using the service I also get a choice of what I put online and how accurate that information is.  I’ve personally seen very few incidents where people have been challenged by Facebook over their date of birth or some creative name they use on their profile.

So what is Facebook doing?  Is it gathering intelligence on users?  Well it certainly can be accurate in displaying adverts of products I might be interested in, but when it does I merely block, being of the opinion that my purchasing decisions are based upon my own conclusions and not something presented to me in the form of an advert.  This is not unique to Facebook and TV will engage in the same technique where products related to the genre of the show will often be shown in order to try and get custom.

I find Facebook useful for many things.  I keep my friends and contacts list relevant and have 100+ legitimate friends/contacts that I do wish to keep in touch with.  My birthday is on there, so are my contacts and its useful in our busy lives to have this feature.  There are many apps which can do the same thing, but then Facebook is available in so many venues I don’t have to be relying on a local app in order to keep up to date.

And what is the harm with say giving your date of birth?  Who is this of interest to?  If people think an evil government could use it, then it could get that information anyway, Registry of Birth springs to mind.  Is the fear that criminals could get hold of it?  Well they could and do with it exactly what they could if they found out from any other source – very little.  Anyone who has applied for anything these days will testify to that.

So what is it that is exactly evil or bad about Facebook or any similar service?  As I said, search the news and there’s plenty of stories, but these are bad things that have resulted from the behaviour of bad people.

There is a tug of war going on in the minds of a few people in relation to social media where on one side of their mouth they shout “privacy and free speech” and on the other complaining that the social media giants are not quick enough to take down material which crosses a line.

The battle for peoples privacy has been lost – if it ever started.  The concerns of privacy that some have are not the fault of social media as intrusions to privacy were not created by social media.  The public demands these services and I’d suggest have decided that the benefits of using them outweigh concerns of privacy.

People with a privacy campaign will be very quick to point out the concerns of social media whilst skimming over the good it does too.  How many charity campaigns have been launched on Facebook?  How many people who have relatives in troubled areas have been given peace of mind with Facebook?  How many people are now able to connect with audio and video around the world where before the expense to do that would be prohibitive.

Privacy campaigners have a problem, the services which promise the true privacy that they support are not used by the mainstream which means they have to use the Twitters and Facebook’s in order to send their messages to the masses.  Trouble is, the masses have decided and privacy (over and above that of securing their debit card details) is something the mainstream seem not to consider as they connect with different people around the planet.

I struggle to see the point about privacy pertaining to social media when you submit this information voluntarily.  If there are users out there who haven’t read the T&C’s and also managed to avoid all news stories from all outlets talking about social media, then that’s their issue, not the issue of the service provider.  Its a little like claiming an operating system is vulnerable to malware because someone voluntarily installed a piece of dodgy software on it.

Also if you look at many Facebook profiles, what is claimed as personal details can vary greatly from reality, so if the information that some users are putting on can be only loosely based on truth, what good is that information to anyone?

But DM is not private! Allegedly not and users have that rammed down their throats, not by privacy campaigners but by Hollywood and the numerous movies which entertain such ideas.  News flash here – unless you have a conversation in the middle of field, miles away from civilisation, its a good chance any conversation you have is heard, heard by friends, people around you or anyone who happens to be walking by.

If you take the position that DM is not private and using it is only an option you choose, what is the issue here?  If Facebook is allegedly passing on or monitoring DM transactions, please give one example of such behaviour.

So where does social media hit problems?  It hits problems when humans start behaving like humans.  The person subjected to online insults for years cannot blame the social media platform, the blame is squarely on the people posting the insults.  As humans we have a unique ability to take something great and totally ruin it – and that is the issue with social media – some of the users themselves.

It seems we live in a world now where there are people who believe we should take no responsibility for our own actions and in addition we should be protected from ourselves by a group of people who look out for “concerns” that we should already be well aware of.

As I said, the campaign for privacy (pertaining to the “evils” of the large social media providers) is not, I’d suggest foremost on peoples minds, people either don’t care or are well aware of the claims and use it anyway.  I am the later, I would hope most people are too.  If there are people who have not been bothered/interested to familiarise themselves with the T&C’s and the potential issues of social media, then they get little sympathy from me if they have cause for complaint later.

Usage figures for Facebook are huge – that in itself should demonstrate the decision the mainstream have already made.

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