We all have friends who are stalwart opponents of getting involved in social media. Some have been able to achieve the impossible: having absolutely no presence on any social network. Others have seemingly arbitrarily picked one network over others and declared that singular network the only one they’ll ever touch. While I might understand being a member of the first group, I really don’t understand the rationale of members of the second.
My topic, however, concerns those who’ve shied away from social networks due to a very real threat: concern over their privacy, especially in light of mounting legislation targeting governmental access to digital content on the Internet.
My contention is not that these people should not be concerned; rather, it’s that their concern is very likely misplaced. Those who use social networks are deliberately posting content that they’re consciously aware is semi-private at best (e.g., Facebook posts that have restricted visibility to friends) and completely public at worst (e.g., Twitter posts from unlocked accounts). While this hasn’t stopped many of us from making rather embarrassing faux pas around unintentional posts, most of us consider the fact that these posts will be read by others.
Returning to my contention, here are three areas those who are afraid of social media should worry about first when it comes to privacy:
- Email: If you’re using one of the large email providers (e.g., Google, Yahoo, etc.) as much of the world is, even your most personal of email perhaps meant for a single confidante may be archived and could someday be accessible to someone other than this confidante Avoiding Facebook for privacy reasons but using Google for email is likely a case of misplaced concern.
- Text/Multimedia Messaging: In the year 2013, who doesn’t text? In fact, it’s so prevalent that it’s become the verb “to text” :-). Much like email, many of us send very personal and targeted messages, images, and videos over cellular messaging services. It is widely known that all of these texts are archived (if only to properly bill customers) and can, many years down the road, be retrieved. Avoiding Twitter for privacy reasons but using text messaging is likely a case of misplaced concern.
- Online Backup: Although certainly not as prevalent as the first two, many of us now rely on convenient and seamless online backup solutions that capture and store the files we, by definition, deem important and worth saving. This is perhaps the most disconcerting of venues as it is literally a mirror image of our entire digital existence conveniently packaged on a single service provider. Once again, avoiding a social network for privacy reasons but using an online backup solution is likely a case of misplaced concern.
My simple rule-of-thumb: treat all content I create as if it will someday be made public. This is not practical in all cases, but certainly a good, general guideline.
The important question we will be dealing with over the next decade is this: should privacy be considered a civil right?