Facebook Profiles: Public or Private?

Data security, privacy, and ethical issues of collecting data online are the themes of this week’s class session. I think this is a pretty salient topic for our class whose participants all have several social media profiles. I think it’s even safe to say that we probably have more than the average person given our affinity for online communication (the focus of our master’s program) and the fact that classmates regularly share new social networking platforms (glossi.com and flavors.me ring a bell?).

While we are all eager to post the latest photo of party shenanigans or a status update on what we thought about a political debate, we don’t often think about the repercussions. That’s because, for the most part, our social media profiles are limited to the people we share information with. However, according to this week’s readings, found here and here, employers are actually asking applicants for their Facebook account passwords or requesting that they open their profiles there on the spot. I’ve never been in this type of situation but would not even know how to respond if I was asked to share my social networking profiles to strangers who might actually employ me. Not to say that my profiles’ content is alarming, but it’s certainly not something I’d like to share with an HR recruiter.

On the other hand, what about mobile applications that mine data of users surreptitiously? Some of the apps I’ve downloaded actually have asked me to “agree to” certain conditions. They can be apps that can determine my location, mine data from my social networks, and track my online behavior—all while I’m using the application’s function. Our reading on mobile privacy sensing took a closer look at this emerging technology and its implications. The authors of the study pointed out that developing a lay public understanding of mobile sensing privacy, security and risk is critical to a vision of participatory privacy regulation. But casual technology users often underestimate or misunderstand data sharing and security risks, which I believe affects many of us users.

Questions to readers:

-Have you ever had to share your social networking profiles to an employer or potential employer?

-What measures have you taken if any to protect your reputation online?


4 thoughts on “Facebook Profiles: Public or Private?

  1. Speaking of apps that you allow to track your location… A terrifying infographic published on Mashable this week: http://mashable.com/2012/11/29/smartphone-knows-you-infographic/

    Admittedly, I am part of that 18% who check in to geosocial services. I love my Foursquare, especially when I’m traveling. Still, I am aware that there are dangers in posting such things–you alert potential thieves to the fact that no one’s home, for example, and you’re broadcasting your location for the whole world to see–so I don’t make a habit of checking in EVERYWHERE I go. I certainly do it for special occasions, and I love Foursquare when I’m exploring new cities. It was enormously useful during my trips to Chicago and New York City last year, when I checked in to every stop I made. New York, in particular, was such a whirlwind trip that I don’t actually remember every stop. Foursquare, however, serves as an excellent reminder of where I went. I can also pull up the exact name of that spectacular deep dish pizzeria I ate at in Chicago, because I made sure to check in there.

    I think the important thing is to be particular about which apps you give permission to, what kind of permission you give them, and what you disclose. Know the apps’ data policies, and know how to revoke those permissions if you can.

  2. 18%! That’s a significant number but I thought it might actually be a bit higher. Thanks for the article, Amanda. I’m also a fan of Foursquare but I’m finding it a bit useless when you’re in one city for too long (Do I really need to become Mayor of my firm? Do I really care about unlocking some meaningless Badges? Not really. Also, I don’t often let Foursquare link to my Facebook because I don’t think people really need to know where I am.

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