Privacy and Security in Social Networks

Posted: January 10, 2012 in Analysis, culture, ICT, Popular Culture

Billions of people have access to online social networks. Facebook, MySpace and Multiply are among the many social networking sites available for anyone with Internet access. Purposively, they are functional in many ways, but as a glass house of interconnected users, these platforms serve as space basically to see and be seen and to interact with people in a borderless and timeless spa.

Privacy is utmost important to almost everyone. Socially, privacy is an individual right. Psychologically, it is a construct of self-preservation from others. These are contradicting forces that should constraint anyone from joining an online social network. Being in a network makes one a part of a virtual open communication space that is vulnerable to make one’s private life obvious in the public.

Privacy and security are intertwined. One whose privacy is invaded may tend to feel less secure. While individuals have their own sense of security, the security features of a social network may not necessarily meet all one’s requirement. Privacy breach is a security issue. This could lead to stalking, malicious or fraudulent transactions and even identity theft.

While social network developers have the responsibility to put in security devices in the network, the accountability of protecting one’s life and valuable information rest on the social network user. Social networks have functions to publish information from personal facts to the location one is at an instant. It is optional to place these information, and access to these can be limited only to those in one’s network.

However, there are features that identify the user to other users. To illustrate, an FB user’s homepage may be locked for other users, down only to one’s name and avatar. Personalizing one’s wall with one’s picture is one possible way to be identified by other users. The network provides another function in that page to allow for possible connection with that user. Here, the owner of the page has the right and the responsibility to give access to anyone outside his or her network.

With search engines built in the network, any user can find another user. This may take awhile depending on the information made available for the searcher. With millions of profiles in a social network, the searcher will have to be patient in browsing all those results or should be more clever in narrowing down the search terms. With this feature, privacy if that is not being able to be found in a social network is not possible.

Social networks are platforms that connect a user to another user or to multiple users, intantantaneously. Privacy, then, is one’s responsibility. A user may possibly send an invite for a friend to get access to one’s network. The owner then should be able to assess and make a decision whether to accept that person’s request or not. Without really doing some background check on that person, the network may become vulnerable to spams that come through bogus profiles.

One young user, at the age of 8, has in his profile a link that connects to gay porn site. This child does not seem to have any malice or sexual interest yet at his age. His father also has a social network account and is his friend in the same site. But, the father does not seem to be aware of that link in his son’s profile page. Has this child placed the link personally, or someone who had access to his account did for him while he was not aware of it at all?

Full privacy is not possible in social networks. That would be damn right anomalous. The only way to free one’s self from being exposed and vulnerable to other online social network users is not to join any social network at all. The next case then, is whether an account is totally deleted once a user opted to shut it down? Anything and every information people put about their selves can be accessed and used by some total stranger. The permission for that was granted through the social network once the user signed up for an account.

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