Monday, May 31, 2010

Internet Privacy Concerns

Making the headlines of late is the issue of Internet privacy concerns, pushed to the forefront mostly by Facebook’s recent gaffes and the subsequent reorganization of its privacy settings. According to numerous surveys many users state they will curtail their sharing of personal information and a very small percentage will even quit Facebook altogether due to a lack of trust in the social network. This past week Facebook announced that it will offer simplified privacy control settings in response to public outcry regarding the social networks usage of personal data. After reading through the official verbiage, the social network is just reorganizing the controls and not offering any new settings. Sure the old version of the privacy settings was difficult to understand and navigate, but if users are truly that paranoid about their information they would spend the time to secure it.

Furthermore, it is not only Facebook that these concerned people should be focusing on. There are numerous other sites that aggregate information from public sources and offer a comprehensive view of an individual. Check out and see for yourself. We live in the information age and to the dismay of many it actually makes our lives easier (I won’t go into detail on this as it will be a future post). Whether we like it or not, our personal information is available for consumption by the masses. An individual can control what is posted online in the way of status updates, pictures, videos, etc. to maintain a certain level of privacy. No matter how hard companies try and prevent them, there are bound to be personal information data leaks either through error or network hacking.

It is the responsibility of the Internet firms to be upfront and honest when it comes to informing users about what information is stored and how it is used. Most of the time this detail can be found in the company’s privacy policy, which many users do not review (based upon a friends and family poll). If firms make it difficult to understand privacy procedures and data sharing practices, it might make sense to rethink your relationship with that firm if you have concerns about your information getting out.