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Internet privacy–the debate that won’t go away

Http://LeonardSipes.Com (social media and PR for government, associations and nonprofits).

See summary of Pew Internet research on privacy and related media coverage regarding new legislation below.


If you listen to Leo Laport’s TWIT network (http://twit.tv/) you will find the finest audio and video offerings and insights on technology. TWIG (This Week in Google;http://twit.tv/show/this-week-in-google/) offers regular hosts Leo Laporte, Jeff Jarvis and Gina Trapani. It’s a delightful presentation and I highly recommend it.

They love to debate privacy and it’s Jeff Jarvis’s contention that the more open we live our lives the better off we will be. Jeff also argues that the internet is only there if content creators can make a profit and they do this much more efficiently if with privacy settings set to “public.”

I’ve disagreed with Jeff Jarvis in this forum before and I admit that his influence within the social community is immense; I’m not a flea on the elephant’s butt compared to Mr. Jarvis.

But Jeff Jarvis is wrong once again. Internet sites have as much honesty and transparency as dishonest politicians. There are thousands of apps and sites that ask for access to every part of your social experience including your address book. They continuously track your history.

It’s simply excessive plundering:

They claim they do a better job of giving you the web experience you seek through access to your files. I suggest that corporations like Facebook, Google and others primarily exist to make a profit; serving your needs is secondary.

There’s nothing wrong with profit but there “is” something wrong with the way they make privacy policies so obscure as to be impossible to understand let alone find. My guess is that the average internet user has no idea as to what they are agreeing to.

I LOVE Google and Facebook and Twitter and all the services we use but it’s naive in the extreme to suggest that they exist principally to serve my best interests. They exist to put money in the pockets of executives, shareholders and employees, nothing more and nothing less. Google is not a search engine; they are an advertising company.

So people need to think more than twice before engaging the many services that exist on the web.

Privacy policies should be written in plain language. You should be able to EASILY opt out of anything related to the site (including tracking). You should be asked on a monthly basis to review your privacy settings.

Companies can easily gain the information they seek through surveys of volunteers and old-fashion focus groups. They do not need access to every aspect of our personal lives to function efficiently. I would be happy to volunteer my information in monthly allotments if that helps the internet prosper but I’m not interested in my life being tracked and reused forever.

Data from Pew and additional news coverage:

The study below from Pew states that about half of internet users are experiencing difficulty managing privacy controls.

The study also indicates that many are taking INCREASING steps to increase privacy.

Just because they are from a company as reputable and wonderful as Google doesn’t mean that future executives will not be unscrupulous with our data. I trust Google; that doesn’t mean that I will trust Google ten years from now.

Privacy excesses now cause President Obama to limit the rights of internet companies to track your web experiences (see http://news.cnet.com/8301-27080_3-57383300-245/obama-unveils-consumer-privacy-bill-of-rights/.

See related coverage; “A coalition of Internet giants including Google Inc. has agreed to support a do-not-track button to be embedded in most Web browsers—a move that the industry had been resisting for more than a year,” athttp://online.wsj.com/article_email/SB10001424052970203960804577239774264364692-lMyQjAxMTAyMDIwMzEyNDMyWj.html.

All of this is taking place because of the excesses of corporate greed and, quite frankly, people are getting tired of the intrusions and the apologists.

Best, Len.

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Pew Study:

Privacy Management on Social Media Sites

February 24, 2012

As social media use has become a mainstream activity, and attention to privacy issues has increased, a new study finds that most users of social networking sites choose restricted privacy settings while profile “pruning” and unfriending people is on the rise.

A survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project & American Life provides new data about the privacy settings people choose for their social networking profiles, and the specific steps users take to control the flow of information to different people within their networks.

About two-thirds (63%) of adults say they currently maintain a profile on a social networking site. Nearly six-in-ten (58%), say their main profile is set to be private so that only friends can see it; another 19% set their profiles to partially private so that friends of friends or networks can view them; 20% say their main profile is completely public.

The number of social network users who prune and manage their accounts has increased: 63% of them have deleted people from their “friends” lists, up from 56% in 2009; 44% have deleted comments made by others on their profile; and 37% have removed their names from photos that were tagged to identify them.

Read the full report for more details on these findings:

Gender differences in setting privacy profiles and managing information
Young adults and their efforts at “reputation management”
Levels of difficulty in managing privacy controls on social networking sites
Profile owners who regret their own posts

Source: http://pewresearch.org/pubs/2201/social-media-social-networking-sites-unfriending-privacy-settings-untagging-photographs?src=prc=newsletter

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