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Privacy and Control

Privacy and the Internet is a battleground and I think the opposing sides are just beginning to amass various weapons of mass destruction. The problem in part as Gurak noted, is that people don't know what their rights are or what the are the rights of the service providers. Copyright is also a grey area. Most important though is the illusion of coziness we may have with ourselves in a home office with a cup of coffee and our computer. Behind that screen, for lack of a better term is not big void of incomprehensible plasticity, but of liquidity--ever-changing, but with a wicked memory, and depth. We have noted that many of these applications are very accessible and friendly, but Gurak says "technologies do their work in the background." (p. 114) Behind all of this simple and easy to use design is a lot of work, code, and data.

I have trouble with the fact that employers see it as a right to look into Facebook or other sites for transgressions of young applicants. To me that steps over a line beyond reference checking. I liked that Cornell steps away from that approach as an institution--"Cornell University is very proud of its policy against monitoring the network for content as a practice." This gives college students a chance to breathe and as the policy states again "make decisions about who you want to be." The idea that every move one makes on a computer is monitored and recorded and indexed---somewhere has the potential to make paranoiacs or exhibitionists of us all.

Sneier contends that the Facebook rebellion was not really about privacy, but about control, and that users of such sites have practically no control at all. He goes on to state that Facebook's privacy policy states that it can change at any time (just like credit card policies and rules). But in a publicly used space is that really the case? It seems to me the outcry proves just the opposite--the feed was removed. This does not mean that Facebook does not have the data or the power to use it in other ways. The example Gurak gave of Amazon's friend matching seems like a similar situation--(supposed) good intentions backfiring. Data and technology are a powerful team, and sometimes I think companies like to dazzle themselves rather than the customer.

I find it kind of sad and limiting that we have to be so careful of providing on-line information, as Gurak says "a good guideline for cyberliteracy is that you should never post anything on the Internet or on e-mail that you would regret seeing in a different context." I would think it takes a lot of the spontenaity out of many interactions. However, it seems like young users (Pew) are aware of such hazards and make good use of privacy settings on social networking sites.

Comments

The fact that an prospective employer can look into an applicants Facebook or MySpace profile isn't the real issue. I think that if they blatantly use that information as a hiring or employment factor, then they may have crossed a line. If the applicant posts a profile that reflects imaturity or excessive behaviors then they should expect to be scrutinized in the interview and hiring process. Companies want to hire the best people in order to increase their revenue. If their choices include applicants that are abusive and applicants that appear mature, guess which person they would pick. Once a person is hired, I don't think online profiles should affect their job security unless it affects their job performance. What they do outside of work is their own business and it shouldn't affect their employment status.

Good post

Mike

I also don't really like the fact that employers can look up people up on facebook either. I think that it does seem to be a little extreme. On one hand, the employers can really see what the candidate is like during their leisure time, but on the other hand, it's not like the candidate can look up the employer's facebook profile and see what THEY are like when they're at home partying. It's an imbalanced equation and I think that it's unfair because it's one sided. That's why I think that everyone just needs to be more cautious of what they put online about themselves. Things can be used as blackmail and some people may not get certain jobs because of what they put on their facebook or myspace page.

I agree that "Whenever you put data on a computer, you lose some control over it. And when you put it on the internet, you lose a lot of control over it" (Sneier, Lessons From the Facebook Riots, p. 1). I think the only control we ultimately have as individuals is what information we decide to put on the internet. Every internet transaction needs to be thought about and a decision made whether or not there is a gain to us personally in doing so.

It's scary to think that an employer could look you up on facebook and decide not to hire you because they find some relatively insignificant fact about you that they disagree with. I've read the stories about people who get fired or harassed because of their political affiliation. Employers really only should check to see if you can perform the necessary tasks, the person's political affiliation or choice of music should be none of there business.

"...sometimes I think companies like to dazzle themselves rather than the customer."

I love this quote, as it highlights what (in my experience) frequently happens when programmers are put in charge of features! That is, we get so excited about what we can do that we don't ask some of the important non-technical questions, for example "Will people even like this?", "How does this affect the privacy of our users?" This attitude probably reflects the thoughts of the "average" person; we often times only think about such matters when it is "shoved in our face", like when the "News Feed" feature was implemented.

"...sometimes I think companies like to dazzle themselves rather than the customer."

I love this quote, as it highlights what (in my experience) frequently happens when programmers are put in charge of features! That is, we get so excited about what we can do that we don't ask some of the important non-technical questions, for example "Will people even like this?", "How does this affect the privacy of our users?" This attitude probably reflects the thoughts of the "average" person; we often times only think about such matters when it is "shoved in our face", like when the "News Feed" feature was implemented.