Big Brother

I have recently read a couple of interesting articles about privacy on the internet. Two of these were marking the 10th anniversary of Google. ‘Big friendly giant…or big brother?’ by David smith was published in the Age’s Good Weekend magazine on 13th September 2008. Here is his blog about the article. It was reported that Google “harvest more of our secrets than any totalitarian government”, and that “they have amassed more information about people in 10 years than all of the governments of the world put together.” Scary thoughts. But Larry Page and Sergey Brin who founded Google in September of 1998 instill this daily reminder into their employees – ‘Don’t be evil’. Their mission is to “organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

I then read the article ‘Facebook and the social dynamics of privacy’ by James Grimmelmann. The Grimmelmann article reports that “A 2006 survey of Facebook users found that 77% of them have never read its privacy policy.” And that “later regret about initial openness is an especially serious problem for the most active social network site users: young people.

I think that the difference between using Facebook and using Google is that in general people don’t realise that Google are farming your personal details, whereas with Facebook personal information is voluntarily and knowingly provided by the users.

I am an avid user of Google’s tools and use Gmail, Google Reader, Google Maps and Street View, YouTube, Google Books and Google Docs as well as being my first port of call for any web search. And I love Facebook. What a clever interface designed by the young Mark Zuckerberg. It pulls in many of the tools used by web-users and offers them up on the same website. Users can communicate with their friends via chat, email, posts, and share images, videos, games, and links. Users can join groups where their interests lie. It really is an amazing and addictive piece of software. But it is public and therein lays the problems. Where is the protection from predators, or future employers, or friends who are no longer friends, or identity frauds? Many people seem to be unaware of the dangers and often believe that there is ‘safety in numbers’. But in this era “connectedness is social currency”, so what can we do? Be aware I suppose. Read the small print. Be mindful of what you put on there. Self censor. Is it possible to do that and still have fun? “Our social lives are infinitely richer than any controlled vocabulary [labels to describe] can comprehend.”



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