Social Media

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“At one level, the computer is an empowering tool, which gives unprecedented access to information and to communications; at another, it might be seen as an implement of control giving unlimited power to those who control the information that it stores. The central dilemma of the information society is how to resolve that issue.” (Feather, J. (2008) The Information Society)

Discuss why you think Feather has come to this conclusion.
What actions are being and can be taken to resolve this issue?

In this modern day society, the use of computers, technology and the internet are increasingly growing. There are websites and programmes that have been developed which are increasingly exploiting individual’s privacy, in some cases without their realisation. Social networking sites play a key role in this exploitation of user’s privacy. This essay will refer frequently to ‘Facebook’ (a social networking site).

So what is Privacy? Privacy can be defined in numerous forms; it can be relatively subjective and can vary between individuals. It is described as “easy to identify when experienced but difficult to define” (Introna, 1997). This emphasises my above point, users may realise that their privacy is being wrongly accessed once an incident has occurred; as opposed to realising the information that they have exposed on a social networking site is already too detailed and is putting them at risk. Furthermore, Yael Onn mentioned that ‘The right to privacy is our right to keep a domain around us...to give us the ability to choose which parts in this domain can be accessed by others, and to control the extent, manner and timing of the use of those parts we choose to disclose" (Y Onn 2005). Onn’s views are comparable to those of Alan Westin (1967) who thought it was strongly down to individuals being able to ‘determine for themselves when, how, and to what extent information about them is communicated.’ These three definitions show the extent to which the term privacy can be interpreted. This emphasises the complexity of Feathers.. Are they trying to suggest that privacy can be unique to individuals and when privacy has been exploited - are the individuals to blame? This is another topic that I will be exploring. I will also examine how the power of social networking sites can be useful and when they pose a threat to the user. I will lastly be looking at why and how this ‘problem’ can be resolved.

Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerberg in 2004. Since its launch the social networking site has experienced significant growth and as of December 2011, it was reported that Facebook had 845 million active users (Facebook Website 2012). Facebook can be used for many different things; keeping in touch with friends, uploading photos, sharing links and exchanging other personal information. Facebook users can see only the profiles of confirmed friends and the people in their networks (Webopedia Website 2012).

The exposition of such large audiences can however pose a great threat to users. The types of threats that users are at risk of are; security breaches, commercial data-mining, database reverse-engineering, password interception, disclosure to advertisers and many more (Jones & Soltren 2005). The vulnerability of a user depends strongly on the amount of information they have publically displayed on their page. Due to the fact that so many users reveal a vast amount of private information on their pages, one could speculate that Facebook does not do enough to advertise the dangers of revealing too much information. If they did however, would this reduce the amount of information that the user reveals? A study in America contradicts my hypothesis and demonstrates that awareness did not increase privacy measures carried out by students (Govani & Pashley 2005). Further to Feathers statement, ‘the computer gives unlimited power to those who control the information’ the vulnerability of users (especially those who are young),...
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