Most of us never really think about our privacy online. We all use forms of social media as part of our daily lives; Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr to name but a few. But how much of what we put online is actually private?
Well, apparently a lot less now as Facebook have announced their plan to end a feature allowing users to not appear in online searches. The privacy setting is being removed as Facebook thought it made searching online feel disconnected, and people who knew each other were prevented from finding each other.
Chief Privacy Officer for Facebook, Michael Richter, has said “the change now allows anyone to type those names into Facebook’s search engines to see their profiles”.
But everyone on Facebook who uses this setting need not panic. The main thing everyone needs to remember is you can still hide somewhat from the general public using Facebook settings. You can make sure all of your profile is on private, you can stop people who are not friends of friends sending you friend requests, and you can also filter private messages.
Richter also said while commenting on the removal of the setting, “whether you’ve been using the setting or not, the best way to control what people can find about you on Facebook is to choose who can see the individual things you share”.
But how much of our information was safe online before this setting was removed? Facebook released a transparency report this year, which revealed that the Irish government requested information on 40 users from Facebook in the first six months of 2013. The report also revealed that Facebook received more than 25,000 such requests from governments around the globe. It is not known how much or what type of information was released to the governments.
Reports like this have made people increasingly worried about their security online. A recent study by the Pew Research Centre’s Internet Project into the issue revealed 86 per cent of people have tried to mask their activity online and prevent being monitored, taking steps such as encrypting their emails.
Google and Facebook also dealt a made more changes to online privacy recently with their announcement that they propose to use members information in advertisements. This means that the ads at the side of Facebook, or any Google service, could contain your user name, profile picture, and more.
Perhaps this should be a wake-up call and a warning to everyone. There is nothing secure about the internet, and we should be more careful about what we put on it. Putting all of your personal information online is the equivalent of printing it on leaflets, standing on O’Connell Street and handing them out to random passers-by. If there are things on your Facebook account that you don’t want everyone to see, then you have to question if they should even be up there in the first place.
Image Credit: Annemarie Kelly