The Internet is Public

Posted by at 1:10PM

That shouldn’t be a shocking statement by now. 2012, specifically, was a year where the lines between what was private and public online were especially blurred. It raised questions about the privacy of minors and adults who are active in social media.  Writers for Jezebel made it nationally known how easy it was to use hashtags to find out who made racist comments about the president on  Twitter. Programmers and data scientists were able to come together and create a website called NoHomophobes.com that tracks homophobic comments through Twitter as well. Taking a step back from the fact that all the things listed were offensive, this raises important questions about how much responsibility individuals should have for what they share on personal but public accounts.

In both the circumstances  listed above, Twitter hashtags were combined with nonexistent privacy settings  to create both the article and the website. The two projects listed above were only possible when the users left their profiles public. People have a right to be public online. They also have a right to say protected speech. Unfortunately, too many people have forgotten that the Internet is a sound box that records what you say and allows everyone on the Internet to replay it. Over and over again.  And unfortunately they chose to say very negative things.

But the investigative data mining that solely belonged to Twitter will now get its turn on Facebook. Facebook has started to roll out its new search engine, linking its users in a social graph. Through the new service you’ll be able to search for friends and connections through likes, comments, locations, photos and more.  On the outside, that actually seems pretty cool. I can look up all my friends who  live in my area that are fans of the beloved but short lived show named Pushing Daisies, just in case I want to have a heated discussion about it one day. The social graph can be seriously beneficial.

But it didn’t take long for the dark side of this new feature to com out. For a Tumblr site that only lasted a day, Tom Scott’s Actual Facebook Graph Searches created quite a stir.  While some things searched for were humorous, others hypocritical, and others downright troubling, all of them raised the alarm about privacy. Although most people  won’t look up negative things about people intentionally, you should think about what will pop up when employers and recruiters use the search graph. Maybe its time to check what you’ve liked on Facebook.

Although Scott chose to stop posting to the Tumblr account after only one day, he succeeded in making us all think twice about what we post on social media. But for me this was just the latest alarm bell rung after the series of reminders from 2012. So like the title of this post says, the Internet is Public. Websites change too often for any individual to be entirely secure in the privacy settings they do have. Facebook likes and comments weren’t really a realm for concern before, but they are now.  For college students entering the job marketing, this is incredibly important.

After so many instances showing how one mistake can cost you, all I can say is that we’ve been warned.

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