By Andrew Atallah ’10
The beginning of the 21st century has often been hailed as the Age of Information, but it begs the question of just whose information it is the age of.
With the increasing prevalence of social networking Web sites, a large amount of previously private information is now being made accessible and shared on the Internet.
“The first thing we want everyone to understand about the Internet is that it’s all public domain,” said Brophy Dean Mr. Jim Bopp about the Internet at large.
What this can mean to many students is that colleges and potential employers they are applying to can search
Facebook or other social networking sites for their account, and if their information is public, they can look at prospective students’ profiles.
With the click of a mouse, stories from that weekend party or an embarrassing photo may not be so funny anymore.
Last December, Facebook made all status updates, links, photos, videos and notes available to the entire Internet and most notably Google.
Many industry experts claimed this was in a bid to compete with Twitter. Although this can be bypassed by readjusting one’s privacy settings, it still points to the increasing availability of previously private information on the Internet.
“Basically stuff that had been private Facebook automatically made it public and you had to go back in and change it again,” said Information Technology Administrator Mr. Blair Cook.
By no means does this mean these changes have eliminated privacy on the Internet; smart Internet users can still be private.
“The tools are there, but people need to find them,” Mr. Cook said.
“I changed my privacy settings … all it comes up with is my name, my profile, picture and the option to hide a friend,” said Jeff Knutsen ’10.
Mr. Bopp suggested not putting anything on the Internet you don’t want your grandmother or even your future children to see.
“If my dad checked my Facebook, he would probably just see my picture,” said Michael Howard ’10.
Something else on the Internet that has been gaining more attention in recent times is the idea of cached pages. This is when Web sites store information even when it has been updated, deleted or changed.
“Everything you put out there from the moment you are born … is all archived; it never goes away,” Mr. Bopp said.
When the Internet first became popular many people worried that it was too anonymous, and that people could post harmful things without anyone knowing their identity.
As Web use has developed, the issue has seemingly changed 180 degrees so that people are now too recognizable on the Internet.
Although private information is increasingly becoming more public, it does not necessarily mean everyone wants their information to be shared publicly.
“People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with different people,” said Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in a recent interview on readwriteweb.com.
“Just because a large percentage of people engage in public does not mean that they don’t care about privacy. Pew (a research center) found that 85 percent of adults want to control who has access to their personal information,” said sociological researcher Danah Boyd at a recent conference.
Adults are not alone. Teens also value online privacy, but they often take steps that undermine that concern by posting information online, according to a recent study on social media usage amongst teenagers.
The study, Project Goodplay, reported 75 percent of interviewed students said privacy was important to them, but half of them kept their social networking profiles open to anyone and more than half said they had “nothing to hide.”
The study also found 47 percent of online users have uploaded photos where others can see them publicly.
Allfacebook.com suggests that in order to protect one’s Facebook profile from getting hacked, all users should have strong passwords, change their password regularly, not friend everyone, not click on links haphazardly and double check all e-mails.
Steps to Stay Private on Facebook
• Review your Facebook privacy settings
• Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want the general public to see
• Remember that Facebook is a public place, even with privacy setting
• Carefully consider any changes Facebook creates