FaceBook has rolled out a new application called “Places”. When you arrive at a location, FaceBook Places allows you to “check-in”, and even do the same for your friends. Of course there are negatives and positives to this new app. Maybe you don’t want everyone to know where you are, but your friend checks you in. Maybe you are a parent, able to keep an even closer eye on your teen without the need to appear an obsessive parent. Just like everything else humans have created, you will find the bad in it if that is what you are looking for, or the good it can do.
It is important to be aware. Not just aware of new technologies, and how they may impact your life and the lives of your loved ones, but aware that your privacy is only an illusion to begin with. Yesterday I learned that my medical group is going tech with all my information. I also learned that the carrier for my personal website had been hacked. There are securities in place, but they are not absolute, no matter what the information.
The Internet, and particularly the phenomena of social networking, has been one of the biggest catalysts to change in human evolution. The way we interact with our friends, families, co-workers, and clients has evolved into an immediate and exchange of information. Information that we think is secure, can be at risk. This is not just data stored in files, but pictures and physicality as well. I have before cautioned about revealing too much of your physical location, because there are terrorists and other real live monsters who will interpret what you think is clandestine, to gather the information they are looking for.
The information may not come from neither you nor hackers of professional data. Sometimes, maybe even most of the time, your information is being spread through your friends and family. I recently had a visit with a niece who will deliver her first child this winter. She made the statement, “I don’t want pictures of my kid spread all over the Internet.” It clicked a switch in my brain, that other people are much less likely to have. As a former pre-school teacher, I am more aware of child safety and parental conditions than most people. As I have used the Internet more and more, I have had internal discussion about how to deal with children and the release of information electronically.
There was once a time when I had to be cautious about even taking pictures of our classroom activities to post in a public forum. Now, many schools have their own websites. Beyond that, many professional photographers do their business digitally now, allowing parents to send links and passwords to their families so they can purchase their own prints. It sounds rather secure, until you remember, if a hacker really wants to, they can access all those pictures. Now that the children are sharing their own pictures, I wonder how much it really matters. Even the most cautious adults get over excited when old baby pictures are scanned, allowing public postings of things they had previously denied. The increase in Internet sharing contributes to this as well.
So in this current age, as a previous teacher, I listen to the words of my niece. At that moment, my FaceBook profile was of me with two of my youngest nephews. I never asked them or their parents if that was OK. The older (15) has his own social networking, which aided my decision, and the younger (5) has had his picture exactingly shared for his entire life. I probably should have asked, but these were the factors I considered. I have also re-posted, with great pride, pictures of my youngest nephew, the mother-to-be’s cousin, without specific permission. Again, I considered the source-the pictures came from a social network; therefore, my re-posting them is no violation. Had I received them through e-mail and then posted them on a social network without asking, I would be in violation of my “Taunta” status. Knowing that this niece currently has different standards, I will make it a painful point to obey. (It is difficult for most people to not share new baby pictures!)
This may not seem like a difficult cognitive process, but not everyone has had the benefit of my experience. They often are living life in the now, with vague awareness of external conditions. Herein lies the difference between “friend” and “acquaintance”: even in their most difficult days, a friend is aware of the standards of the people involved in that moment; an acquaintance may not be aware of those others, or simply may not care. The types of information you share directly, is usually subconsciously governed by your interpretation of your relationship with the individuals with whom you are sharing.
As adults, this social art becomes more refined, even if not perfected. As young people, however, we often find ourselves floundering within the chaos of other people’s psychological evolution. Even those whom we call “friend” may have a period of disturbance that causes them to behave inappropriately with us, or with our information. This doesn’t mean they are not a true friend, or that they are bad people. It is often just a hic-up, but it does mean that we need to start off being cautious in our choices, and clear in our standards.
Rather you are an adult or a not, you need to clearly define your technological boundaries with those with whom you communicate, friend or acquaintance. If you do not want your picture posted, make it clear to every holder of a camera you encounter. If you want a private life, stay off all social networks, and ask the people in your sphere of influence, to use a nickname for you when they refer to you. Expect a few leaks-being a clearly communicating non-conformist does not mean that other people will always remember to obey your personal rules. If they do not try, then you have a relationship issue, not a privacy one.
Unless you have been born outside of a medical facility, never participated in an educational or financial institution, or walked into a place of business with a security camera, you cannot control your privacy. You can certainly try, and you should, but you must also accept that that control is temporary at best, but mostly just an illusion. Whatever your privacy expectations may be, you also need to be aware of those same expectations in others. Be sensible. Be cautious. But do not be obsessive.