2/26 Discussion: Privacy & How a Digital Media-Rich World Poses Social Challenges

Facebook’s Privacy Trainwreck

By Danah Boyd


  • On 5, September 2006, Facebook – a social network site primarily used by college students at the time – launched a feature called ‘News Feeds’. Upon logging in, users faced a start page that listed every act undertaken by their Friends within the system – who “befriended” whom, who commented on whose Wall, who altered their relationship status to ‘single’, who joined what group and so on.
  • Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg responded with an apology and a peace offering in the form of new privacy options. Zuckerberg explained that News Feeds helps people keep tabs on their friends, and only their friends.
  • Facebook users have to consider how others’ opinions might affect their reputation due to their online actions, based of the fact that it will be clearly broadcasted to everyone whom they’ve digitally “befriended”.
  • Biologist, Robin Dunbar found that humans gossip to keep tabs on the social world around them. There’s a limit to the number of people that humans can actively keep tabs on. While having hundreds of Friends on social network sites is not uncommon, users are not actually keeping up with their lives. (It is natural for a human being to possess curiosity, but where does curiosity draw the line and become nosiness?)
  • Information is not private because no one knows it; it is private because the knowing is limited and controlled. (What’s your interpretation on this statement?)
  • Social convergence requires people to handle disparate audiences simultaneously.
  • Privacy is not an inalienable right – it is a privilege that must be protected socially and structurally in order to exist. Does society support privacy?

Online Privacy

Do Americans need better protection?

 By Charles S. Clark

The issue of protecting personal online data drew attention from consumers, privacy-advocacy groups and Congress. “We probably should have been more sensitive to this issue beforehand” said Mark Zuckerberg.

The rally against Facebook privacy seems to be ignited by many corporations. Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the (EPIC) Electronic Privacy Information Center said,  “Facebook is trying to change privacy on the Internet, and users are pushing back”.  EPIC is just one of many groups that have legally filled complaints about Facebook’s privacy practice to the FCC. “This is about who controls the disclosure of data. Facebook cannot make that decision for users” said Rotenberg.

“The debate here isn’t whether government should get involved in protecting online privacy, but how,” says Berin Michael Szoka, director of the Center for Internet Freedom at the Progress & Freedom Foundation.

The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse published the “Top Eight Things You Shouldn’t Give Social Networking Sites.” Which consisted of:

  1. Access to your e-mail account; your work e-mail address
  2. Your exact date and place of birth
  3. Your browsing history
  4. Your vacation plans
  5. Public posts with your address
  6. Phone number and e-mail address
  7. Embarrassing or compromising photos
  8. Money


  • Is it possible to enjoy or fully experience the advantages of socially networks without giving some of the information mentioned on the “Top Eight Things You Shouldn’t Give Social Networking Sites”?
  • Can Internet activism turn into a real political movement? (Rhetorical Question)
  • How private is ‘privacy’ according to these new age social forums?
  • How critical is the job of an RSS Feed Reader? How are they affecting me?
  • How should the government go about protecting online privacy?

At the end of the day, can all parts of society be pleased? Whether it’s the consumers or corporations, is there any possible solution to settle this debate? How are business interests that benefit from an unregulated Internet affected by privacy, and how are they influencing activism?

Interesting statistics shown here, how true is it?

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