Six million Australians are selling their lives to Facebook
I am a social media whore. That’s the point of it all right? There’s a lot you can know about me from what music I listen to, what concerts I’ve been to and yes, even occasionally what I just ate.
There’s even a 12 second video somewhere of me dancing in a tutu to What a Feeling by Irene Cara. All of which I chose to share across a number of social networks I belong to that include Blip.fm, Twitter and 12seconds.tv and I’m comfortable with that.
And then there’s Facebook.
The social networking juggernaut is being sued by five of it members for allegedly misleading them about how their personal information was being used. The lawsuit which is filed in the Orange County Superior Court, follows concerns already raised by both the Australian and Canadian privacy commissioners over the site’s privacy policies.
The five claim that Facebook lead them to believe that their information could only be accessed by people they had authorized as friends. Among the plaintiffs are a professional photographer and an actress who claim their work was used and distributed without their permission. Another is a college student who joined the site in 2005 in its original incarnation as a college-student-only site. Their complaint is that Facebook changed its terms of service to broaden reach without properly notifying users. The other two are minors who opened accounts and posted personal information without their parents knowledge or consent. Mum and dad aren’t happy.
Despite the dubious nature of some of the claims - and let’s face it, if you leave your child unattended on a computer them opening a Facebook account should be least of your worries - there are legitimate concerns when it comes to the invasive terms of service. Already this year it was forced to back down on a policy that claimed perpetual ownership over all content loaded on the site.
The larger issue is how much people realise what they agree to when engaging in social networks. Privacy considerations should be made before joining a network not after, because we’ve often signed away our rights by then. Do we consider who may access the information we choose to share?
And in the case of Facebook, what others choose to share about us. Before you post pictures from your yearbooks and proceed to tag everybody in your class, including those that barely liked you, think about whether others might want that information up there. Australia’s privacy commissioner was right to be concerned about the indefinite retention of personal information by Facebook after a user has deactivated their account.
That Facebook would want to own our idle conversations and inane banter should not be taken lightly. As we upload more of our lives online are we aware how much of ourselves we are essentially selling to private enterprise?
The latest comScore figures show that social networking usage in Australia has jumped 29 per cent since last year with 70 per cent of internet users in Australia visiting a social networking site in June - that is three out of four Australians. Facebook. led the way among social media sites with 6 million Australian visitors that month alone, up 95 per cent from the year before.
“Social networking continues to grow in popularity both across Australia and throughout the world,” said Will Hodgman, comScore executive vice president for the Asia-Pacific region. “Social networking is now an essential part of peoples’ daily online routine, providing a level of engagement and reach that far exceeds most other content categories. Understanding how to leverage this audience successfully is both a challenge and significant opportunity for most digital marketers today.”
His latest statement is rather telling. I guess we have to ask ourselves, how much we “value” our privacy?
This is a marketplace, after all.
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