User Privacy Meets Common Sense

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User Privacy Meets Common Sense
Traci Heether-Meekma
Jessica Harnisch
April 1, 2013

User Privacy Meets Common Sense
Social network (SN) site users seem to be unaware that they are, in part, responsible for their own privacy on these sites, or simply have no concern about that privacy. They are therefore shocked when their privacy is invaded. Users today DO trade some privacy for the convenient communication available on the Social Network sites. These sites DO NOT offer privacy to their users, unfortunately, they merely offer policies and settings that the user is responsible for finding and handling. Seeking out and reading the privacy policy, using the privacy settings, taking care when sharing photos, personal views, and what comments are made, the concerned user could retrieve some of the privacy they feel they have lost. Although today’s social networking site user claims a loss of privacy, applying common sense where the whole world is watching can help users maintain that privacy. Social network users claim a loss of privacy. Privacy is not something that any social network user should expect as they themselves should be protecting anything they intend to keep private. Their claim may be supported by reports about internet privacy and/or the loss of said privacy. “In recent months, the issue of privacy on social networking sites has come to the forefront as a result of the media controversy surrounding the social networking site Facebook.” (O’Brien, D. & Torres, A. M., 2012). Users show a growing fear of a lack of privacy online, and though there should be concern, the media seems to feed their fear. There are always internet myths, news stories, and plain rumors of privacy loss; many of these are convincing and easily believed by today’s user.

Seeking out and reading a privacy policy is easier said than done. Privacy policies are often complicated, long reading. Many users will bypass this policy altogether to get on with the social network experience. “We’ve discussed the stupidity of privacy policies many times in the past. Honestly, it’s an idea that serves no useful purpose, yet most sites are required to have them, and if you don’t, people get all upset. But no one reads them, and most people incorrectly assume that if a site has any privacy policy, they must keep data private. (Masnick, M., 2012). It is much easier to just click the accept button and move on. If the privacy policy was shorter and more clearly explained to the user, they may be more apt to look for, read, and comprehend the policy. Users talk about what they have posted, seen, or read online, but rarely discuss how any of their personal information is or is not protected.

Though Security software is available, it is often by expensive subscription. Some software security companies are scaring users into purchasing software that may or may not solve their privacy issues. “A Californian man has filed a lawsuit against Symantec, claiming that its software uses scare tactics to scam consumers out of money -- the exact same tactics that fake antivirus malware uses to scam unwitting computer users out of millions of dollars every year.” (Sebastian, A., 2012) This lawsuit shows that users cannot always trust the very product that is meant to protect them. Individual users must keep a diligent watch over their own personal information, and even be careful which software they choose to help them with the task of said diligence.

The research finds that users do not always utilize the privacy settings that the social network site may offer. This serves as a disadvantage to the SN user, it is up to the user to find out about these settings and set them in a way to maintain however much privacy they can. “Some don't use privacy controls. Almost 13 million users said they had never set, or didn’t know about, Facebook’s privacy tools. And 28 percent shared all, or almost all, of their wall posts with an audience wider than just...