Social Media & Online Privacy



Ask yourself. Do you think you still have privacy in this digital age?

Many will agree that if you are active on any social media platform, all your content, activities, and communications will be public regardless of your privacy settings. There are also those who believe that they are able to keep their personal matters to themselves, simply by not having any social media accounts. The reality is that it is nearly impossible to not be spied on in this digital era.

Technology surrounds us. The naysayers that refuse adapt to new technologies fear for their privacy and believe that not owning a smartphone, and not signing up for social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, will keep them safe from unwanted and unauthorized attention. We are all being surveyed in North America. In real-life, there are police cameras, anti-theft cameras, security cameras, profile identification cameras, and people with smartphones that document peoples behaviour. Sometimes, we subconsciously know that we are being filmed, but ignore it just like ignoring ads you see online. This information’s “purpose” is to ensure citizen’s safety, and to record any proposed crime committed in the event that documentation of the act can be used in court.

Online, we can consider everything to be “public”, in the sense that if the government deems it a threat, then your information can be pulled and used against you regardless of actual intention. Those who do not use social media are just as much at risk as those who do. When you check your email, create a new account, shop online, or even do a simple search, you are creating an online profile of yourself. Your browser is keeping track of your actions, and making suggestions through ads. You can delete your browsing history, have ad-block apps, and get rid of all your cookies, but how do we really know how much was being recorded, who was monitoring us, and for how this information is being kept, even if it is encoded. If hackers can hack into the most secure servers, the general public is no safer.

If you are online your matters are not longer private, if you are just walking down the street with no around, your matters are not private. We are being monitored for safety in one aspect, and as a means to continue the cycle of consumerism, with targeted ads online.

Well then, how do we continue to navigate in this world where privacy ceases to exist?

In the case of the documentary Terms and Conditions May Apply, Mark Zuckerberg puts the solution to this issue simply. Zuckerberg asks if he is being filmed by the documentary’s crew, and after confirmation of the fact, proceeds to say, “please don’t”.

Is it just that simple, can we simple request not to have our privacy invaded for our “benefit”? Social media, online communications, and new technologies are making it easier for people to take our data and justify actions that can easily be perceived as threats due to a machine generated alert. This method lacks context of who the actual person is, and why they searched a topic, like “eating brains”.

It seems that the progression of information “stealing” will continue, even if we request it to stop. So, the alternative is to then learn the system. Be aware, and be educated, in what you are agreeing to, even if you think you have nothing to hide, the old saying goes true, “better safe than sorry”. It does take time to read terms of use policies, and that it is inevitable that we will find issues, because it is subjective and written for people, and people’s perspectives are different because we are human.

If you still disregard being conscious of privacy invasion because you have “nothing to hide”, that might not be true to others when the time comes. Consider how someone else could be perceiving what you write online. Something that might be humorous to you, might be perceived differently by others.

If you are prepared to say it online, be prepared to say it in public, and really, the only possible solution to have complete privacy again is if there was no technology.

Time Rayner’s proposition that we live in a Virtual Panopticon: Thoughts

Agreeing with Time Rayner’s argument that social media is sharing who we are and what is important to us by performing to those online audiences, stems from personal experience most noticeably on Facebook. Just by scrolling through my timeline I am bombarded with videos and posts from companies that I like. It is rare to find personal opinions here, unless it relates to things like finding out what Disney character you are…or look where I ate, or my latest charity run. It is rare to find posts about the lonely, negative, and boring realities of my friends. It is always about something that I will be able to connect with emotionally. There is a lack of intellectual discussion, but there is an abundance of likes and positive affirmations on someone’s news. What people are sharing is an experience that will please, impress, or move their friends in a certain way. People are posting content to create this type of person for others to see. It is performative, it is knowing someone by their work.

Working in social media, I am aware that what I post are just small aspects to who I really am. I post articles and opinions that I know interest others, and I save my personal life for when I share them in person with friends and family offline. I think it is easy to hide behind your monitor in this digital age because you receive validation of being someone, from seeing responses to your posts. We have become so dependent on the response of others, that without it we feel lonely, and are not able to cope with being disconnected for even a day.

The internet and social media is the sharing of information, the connecting of people all over the world, and is a machine that provides conveniences to our everyday lives. At such a fast-pace, we are absorbing so much accessible information, and at the same skimming over what is important both in real-life and online.

Foucault and social media: life in a virtual panopticon
Terms and Conditions May Apply Documentary (2013)
The Innovation of Loneliness


About Amanda Chiu

Amanda is the Marketing Coordinator at Atomic Reach, writing posts, sharing news, and connecting with the community on the daily. Her attempts at clearing her ever-growing reading list continue to be unsuccessful, and she really does believe that sharing is caring.
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