Facebook has announced that it's in the process of simplifying its privacy settings in response to concerns from users about how public their information has become. Facebook is currently the media's whipping boy for online privacy issues, and while it's undoubtedly positive that attention is being drawn to this matter, it's simplistic to suggest that only Facebook offers a snare for unwary feet - or that social media and networking sites are only out to blazon your personal information all over the web.
The balance between the individual and the social network, whether on- or offline, is always a delicate one. The human urge to communicate is tempered with the ability to control to a very sophisticated degree which facets of our self, which version of the story, we reveal to others. What we choose to reveal depends on whether the recipient is a best friend, a family member, your manager, or the guy sitting next to you on the bus. And what the streamlined homogeneity of the online environment can cause you to overlook is that your status updates might be written with friends and family in mind, but - depending on your online behaviour and how public you've chosen to be - might be broadcast to the last two as well.
Concerned? Good! If you wouldn't tell the guy on the bus the problems and fears you'd only share with your best friend, your built-in human communication filter is working just fine. And there are two things you can do to make sure it works just as well in the online environment. Both of these things are simple and totally non-technical: what they rely on is your being aware that you can, and should, be in control of your online information. If you're aware of it, you're already in control.
The first thing to do is to click the button called Settings. There's one on every social site you come across, and it allows you to choose exactly how public you want your information, opinions, links and photos to be. Every time you sign up for or start exploring a new social website, look for the Settings button and take control over who gets to see what.
The second is even simpler, and like the first, it's a matter of personal choice. If you wouldn't stick that photo on your office door, don't post it on the internet ...
6 years ago