Is The Whole World Reading Your Social Media Content?
Social media and privacy–do you have any idea who sees your information and how they might use it? Lori Andrews, a law professor and consumer activist, writes about social networks and what she calls the “death of privacy” in her new book, I Know Who You Are and I Saw What You Did: Social Networks and the Death of Privacy
Andrews was on The Bob Edwards Show this morning and talked with Bob about the ways employers, judges and others are using our public information, often to our detriment. For example, a schoolteacher, who wrote on Facebook about getting germs from her students, was fired. Sexy online photos of a woman were used in a court case on the issue of her ‘mothering’ (there wasn’t enough information to tell exactly what the case was). Some employers are asking potential new hires for the password for their Facebook account as part of the hiring process.
In many European countries privacy laws give the individual more control over his or her public information. A person is given access to materials used against him and has the right to defend himself. In the US, we are not as protected and many of us are not as careful about what we post. Or, we work under the assumption that Big Brother is not looking. Andrews talks about the need to educate judges about social media and privacy. Coming from a long history of consumer advocacy, Ms. Andrews is working to protect us and educate us on the impact of our social media actions. Great, good, etc… But, there needs to be a greater trickle down to parents and teachers to help young people learn how to use social media responsibly. Or at the very least to understand the full reach of the internet and all the implications of each and every word, photo, song, rant and anything else that gets posted on the internet. A chilling example is the young man who’s parents kicked him out of their home for being gay. Apparently the Facebook practice of targeting ads based on the words and searches we use was the trigger here. Advertisers on Facebook are given data from “our” online activity that is used to specifically target ads to our preferences (which explains why the ads on my page are always for “seniors”) The parents looked at their son’s FB page and found gay-focused ads on his page and made the determination of his sexual preference. And, kicked him out.
Ms. Andrews wrote this book because she was trying to convince a young woman, applying to colleges, that her constant news feeds about playing Mafia Wars might negatively bias college admissions staff. As she began compiling information to back up her story she began to find cases of supposedly private material that was used against individuals. That led her to write the book, I Know Who You Are and I Saw What You Did.