Saturday, November 10, 2007

Whose privacy issues are they anyway?

The fame generation needs to learn the value of privacy: "When we live in a society where reactionary bedroom poets are found guilty under terrorism laws, it makes you wonder whether their rather more seasoned and significantly more brilliant predecessors such as Swift wouldn't, in a similar climate, have realised the folly of bunging their every move on Facebook, and made alternative arrangements."

I totally agree with this. There are some distinct new digital communication skills which need to be acquired and acquired rapidly. Millions may be on Facebook, but I'll bet you any money that they're not all aware of the privacy settings required to keep even a modicum of modesty where sharing or not sharing data is concerned. Funny thing is though that it works both ways. It's not just about younger people, students, school kids - whatever 'other than me' category these people fall into. It's everyone. Hyde says in her article that "Gradually, older generations are having to adjust to the notion that not only do younger people not really care about privacy; they often don't even comprehend the idea of it" but I don't believe this to be the case. I don't think that the any generation seriously doesn't really care about privacy, I just don't think that many people are aware of the long term implications of publishing the various aspects of themselves to an unchecked and unknown audience.

Student to student. Colleague to colleague. Friend to friend. Sharing information in a knowing what between those various combinations is fairly straightforward. But what about when those relationships get tangled online? What about the damage caused by the party animal you like to reveal to your 'real' friends being shared with students you've befriended (in that loose 'I know you, but there's no other category so 'friend' will have to do even though you're not actually a friend but... ermmm' kinda way). Aren't they supposed to have at least a little something to respect? Instead, they're either watching the drunken antics of someone who should know better or watching them moan to their 'real' friends about how they really view their job / life / other thing best kept to oneself. It's damaging for a good while longer if your employer / potential employer sees a facet of your character you really didn't want them to. Privacy issues affect everyone.

A blurred, modern, networked life is an interesting concept, but no-one is immune from effects of online indiscretion. Just as students aren't seemingly aware of privacy issues, the universities merrily jumping onto the bandwagon could do with a refresher too before an institution-level gaffe is made.

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