Segues: Social Networks’ Eyes Are Watching You
By Justin Davis. June 24, 2011, 1:41 PM CDT
Each Segues column starts with something tech-related before quickly branching out from there into a tangentially related thread. These articles are born from my thought and speech patterns that regularly contain quickfire transitions. For one of my birthdays, a friend made me a crown that said “King of the Segues”. Actually, it said “King of the Segways” and that was the day we learned how to spell segue correctly.
Can you feel those prying eyes looking at you? There they are right now. Someone’s reading over your shoulder too. Can you see him? And how exactly did that guy know you’re a Doctor Who fan? Who are all these people and how do they know so much about you? Oh, yeah. You told them.
On an almost daily basis, you can expect to see a news story on privacy issues and social networks. In fact, a quick check using Google News search returns this: “Results 1 – 10 of about 2,239 for privacy social network.” Not all of those results are news stories about privacy concerns, obviously, but many are. The idea of security and what we have control over is so prevalent today that it’s easy to understand how the majority of social network users would want to lock down what others can and can’t see. That’s just not true though. Like Kelly Dempski, director of Accenture Technology Labs said in this V3.co.uk article, “There’s a vast difference between the buzz about social networking privacy and what people actually do.” Dempski went on to discuss how when users click the “Allow” button on a Facebook application to allow access to their accounts, Accenture and other companies can collect data that’s much more beneficial than virtually any other method and that can help them aim their marketing in more effective ways. But marketing pushes are the exact sort of thing that social network users with privacy concerns want to avoid. We already have so many ways to avoid other types of advertisements, from DVRs to AdBlock Plus on Firefox, that it’s ironic we so freely invite marketing machines into our lives through acceptance and compliance with whatever is the next button that says “Allow” to pop up in front of us on whatever social networking site we’re on that day. The next most pressing privacy issue isn’t one about advertisers using our tweets and updates to hone in on products they think will appeal to us the most, but it’s our fear that the government will spy on us.
The fight to keep that anonymity has been taken up the by the non-coincidentally named hacktivist group Anonymous. According to them, Anonymous has become fighters for internet freedom, privacy, and freedom of speech the world over. There is no leader of the group that’s taken the Guy Fawkes mask from V for Vendetta as one of its most recognized symbols, but they have come together as a united front against everything from Amazon to PayPal to the Australian government to Westboro Baptist Church to their most recent threat of retaliation against the Chilean government. The Chilean government earns Anonymous’s attention because it’s paying to have “what people are saying” on social media sites scrutinized. Anonymous’s warning to Chile (and Peru for some unknown reason) is below:
Governments cracking down on internet usage and spying on citizens is nothing new. China is infamous for it, but even that country can prove there’s an exception to every rule. About a month ago, one of China’s most renown investors, Wang Gongquan, announced that he was leaving his wife to run off with his mistress. Gongquan did this on China’s Twitter-like messaging service, Sina Weibo, where hundreds of thousands of people who aren’t his friends and family witnessed the announcement. Within 24 hours, the adulterous investor’s message was reposted roughly 60,000 more times. Somehow, while Twitter is banned in China, Weibo manages to flourish with almost 150 million users and has become so integrated into the lives of people over there that Gongquan’s admission didn’t seem out of the norm. Gongquan wasn’t only being open to the public of China, but outright inviting them into his private life. Could this have been an example of the Chinese culture’s trait for self-admonishment? Unlikely. Even if Gonquan said he felt “ashamed”, just two weeks later he went on Weibo to direct followers to a video on Youku, China’s version of YouTube, where he sings his self-written song “Ode to Elopement”. You can see the video on Youku, which was viewed more than 350,000 times in the first day, here.
Easily, the website I visit most often throughout a regular day is Facebook, but I’m not worried about security issues or privacy concerns. I make sure that the URL is an https and not an http and actually read what information will be shared when I press an “Allow” button. I don’t plan on leaving the social network site anytime soon, because I feel that Facebook does the one thing I think it sets out to do by connecting people and inspiring conversations. I’m delighted each time I see a group of my friends who have never met each other all responding to the same status update or link I post. Acting as a bridge between people makes me happy. Plus, I’m able to constantly stay on top of breaking news of all types thanks to my friends on Facebook and their many varied interests. Whether its tech news, political discussions, the latest funny internet meme, up-to-date movie news, comic book stories, or amazing deals at local restaurants, I can always count on informing people myself or at least one of my Facebook friends being plugged in. Not all of my friends share every one of my beliefs, and that’s a relief. Through them, I can enter into discussions on Facebook that I might not be able to otherwise. We can control what we say, where we say it, and how we say it. I’m not advocating that we follow Gongquan’s example, or midlife crisis, of putting his private life out there for the masses (like myself) to dissect. However, I am saying that there is a definite benefit to opening yourself up through social networking sites. If used correctly, Facebook, and other social networking sites, can encourage us to actually become more connected with people and not less.
About Justin Davis
Justin Davis is one of the co-founders of Techcitement and acts as the editor-in-chief for the site, which is ironic because he's likely the least tech savvy/aware person here. He also wrote a monthly restaurant review column for The A.V. Club Austin from 2010 to 2011, and he regularly performs in and directs improv theater. That means he's ready for anything. Yes, even that.