Sunday, March 29, 2009

Online Privacy or Responsiblity?

Facebook's attempt to claim ownership of all material posted on their website seems to have started some serious discussions about what the term "Online Privacy" really means and how important it is to people. Both of the articles "Beware: the Internet could own your future" and "Don't overestimate privacy of online information" discuss the fact that once you or one of your 'friends' post something on the internet it is there for all to see whether you like it or not.

After reading both of the articles and a few other "Online Privacy" articles, including Online privacy? For young people, that's old-school, I am finding myself viewing the term as an oxymoron, especial when using it in reference to social networks, such as Facebook, where many users pride themselves on how many 'friends' they are linked to - even though that means that they are sharing their private social lives with more and more people, some of which they might not want to share it with. Specifically that would be future employers or other people that may one day heavily influence their lives.

I know that the focus of this blog post is supposed to be if there is such a thing as online privacy but I feel the need to comment on a statement made by Samanta MacConnell, in her article "Don't overestimate privacy of online information":

"I have to disagree with hiring and firing based on profile photographs. Shouldn't your personal life be left at the door? A person working five days a week deserves a little down time on the weekends. What a person does on his or her own time on days off should not be used to judge work ethic because that person may be serious and hard-working when they enter the workplace. Employers know that Facebook is popular and that our generation is utilizing it, but business and personal lives should not coincide."

I found this comment troubling. I do agree that a person deserves a little down time but that doesn't mean that it has to be posted and shared online for others to see. To believe that you wont be judged by what you do in your personal life and choose to make public through an online social networks is naive, especial if you know that employers are now using the internet to "check-on" employees. I'm not saying that people should be hired or fired based on profile pictures. But, if a person is responsible enough to be a hard-working employee they should be responsible for what they choose to post online and be prepared to deal with the consequences. I do believe that there should be online privacy provided by online sites but I also think that there needs to be some online responsibility exhibited by online users.

This brings me to my final observation which is that it is absolutely essential that young, live in the moment, internet users are made aware that the words they write, the language they use, the ideas they share, and the images they present online will one day shape the perceptions that others will use to judge them by - be that positive or negative.

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