I am very loose with my information, especially my name. It really wouldn't be all that hard to find where I live, where I work, where I go to school, etc. Bank account? Harder, since the only record I keep regarding that is the one in my head. Regardless, I give out personal information pretty freely. Why, you might ask? Isn't that dangerous?
For me, not entirely. I'm a big guy, I'm 6'2", I know how to handle myself in a fight. I know how to move pretty quietly, and I'm a good bit stronger than I look, which is saying something (I might not be incredibly athletic, but I've got enough muscles to defend myself.) I don't feel like I'm in any danger by revealing my name or general location to people (which for the record, is near Philadelphia). But, I do entirely understand that for people who aren't a 6'2" guy with high pain tolerance and a strong punching arm, this is not something you would do.
So how does this tie in to Facebook and other social networking sites? Well, simple: Facebook decides for the majority of people who are too busy to research or care about these issues, that they will be treated the same as a 6'2" guy, and guess what? They aren't. The good majority of people are not my size, my strength, not able to defend themselves as well as I can. Its just not what the world is like.
Let's step back for a bit and look towards something we can actually visualize a little bit better, a small analogy that isn't perfect but will serve. Imagine there is a small village up in the mountains of Afghanistan. The people there are mostly farmers, goat herders, not a high amount of income or anything. They eat comfortably, they don't really have much education, they aren't the smartest, most interesting, strongest, or really the most anything. They're pretty average. They work all day, and they're pretty busy. There's a public computer in the richest house, which has a slow satellite internet connection, and sometimes they'll use it to get news.
One day they find themselves caught between the Taliban and U.S. Forces. People are being killed, houses are burned, bombed, and destroyed. Everything they know is completely and utterly ruined. Was this entirely be surprise? Well, not really; a day or so earlier, there was an article in BBC World that talked about conflict in their region, and that people in the area should be wary.
So, were these people at fault? They clearly should have left; they had the information available, its their fault for not listening and preparing better. Right?
Well, no. The comparison is pretty simple; the vast majority of people don't have the time or the interest to become highly informed on the subject of privacy. People simple don't know, and how could they? Between work, school, and friends, who has the thoroughly research and navigate the often overly complicated privacy settings of social sites? When's the last time you thoroughly read the Terms and Services of a game you bought?
Facebook culture is one of surface convenience; its not a question of how it works, but whether or not it works at all. Does a car run? No, take it to the shop. Yes? Great, then keep going. This isn't really wrong or right. It represents a slow shift away from the increasing complexity of the world around us. When people complain about the amount of choices at a supermarket, its simply the other side of the coin; I don't care about what peanut butter I get. Does it say "Creamy Peanut Butter" somewhere on it? Well yes, then I'm getting that one. I don't care about what's in it, how its made. Its peanut butter. There's fifty other choices on the aisle alone, who cares about one more?
This is why we need to refrain from labeling the people who keep their facebook profiles open as "idiotic" or anything else insulting (although it also makes us pretentious dickholes, that's bad too.) Inform them about the problems? Yeah, of course. We shouldn't just ignore it, but telling people that they're dumb for not being as informed as people who spend hours and hours on the internet just reading about shit like this is like berating somebody who just wants to go on the internet for not using a Linuxbox.
Or, to make a comparison that more people will emphasize with, its like Mitt Romney calling people stupid for being poor. Don't be Mitt Romney.
It is not about beeing harassed because you are not a 6'2", and, meanwhile you do, the others don't know how to handle themselves... I think It's all about the masses being used. It is about the ability to record everything you do and connect it with your persona. If you are not careful online they will know who and what are you talking to/about, what your income is (so they can estimate what your potential ability to buy is) what kind of fashion do you follow the clothes you wear (so they can select what to offer/put in front of your eyes), what do you usually buy, the places you frequent and spend your money to drink to eat...
You might remember the buzz created some months ago by the phrase:
which, funny enough, in it's original form was:
As per the label part I will quote Neil deGrasse Tyson. I think what he said applies everywhere:
So since computers are becoming an everyday part of our lives, people should be more educated, more computer literate and privacy is very important!
Mass privacy is difficult to achieve; hopefully we will, and honestly apps like Girls Around Me are scary enough to start showing people what the hell is up. Hell, I'm uncomfortable with ever sharing my exact location with people I don't know; as a rule of thumb, I probably don't like the person, so why invite them near me?
But yes, a campaign for education about facebook privacy, along with movements to start promoting it, would be very, very useful. And, if I'm honest, I actually don't mind the whole "personal advertising" efforts. I don't think I've as of yet bought anything online that I saw through advertisements. I might have clicked a link once in 2003. That was it.
I think that people are sharing WAY too much information, but I don't fault them terribly much. They are being taken advantage of imo, left and right, by companies looking to make a buck. They are being lied to by omission, or explicitly, and the privacy statements of a lot of these companies are designed to obscure exactly what they collect about you. I think most people would be freaked out to know that Google can spit out a data sheet that has your name, residence, personality profile based on web surfing habits, along with the history of all the places you have ever been online, as well as the exact physical locations you have been, and probably are now. They don't think about it when they surf the web or use a map.
The sad reality is that there are no options. The internet is fairly essential to modern life. Social networks are as real as physical networks. Cutting yourself off in the name of privacy simply isn't realistic because there are no services (or collection of them rather) that do entirely what you need them to do without scraping your info and selling/utilizing it for monetary gain.
- "If you post information in a public forum you deserve to have the information abused"
I suggest you look for better coverage of this matter, if you think that TechCrunch hissy fit is the best there is. I'm sure whatever Jeff Jarvis has to say about it will be the most measured take on it you can find.