The other night, the BBC aired an ‘interview’ with Mark Zuckerburg about Facebook and how it came to be. Many of us will have seen the cinematic portrayal of the tale, The Social Network, some of which will be based in fact and the rest in, if not fiction, then on a very twisted truth. I certainly don’t want to debate that here in this post, rather it was some of the content of the documentary which got me thinking about the security aspects of social media – something which has bugged me for quite a long time and is probably one of the key things from taking that final step in to a full social media world.
One of Mark Z’s key ‘philosophies’ is that social media is a way to give people a voice and the freedom to share and say what they want. To this end, within Facebook, functions are built to support that; what this means in practical terms is that where security or privacy settings are available, they will default to the most public option. Now, it is possible to change this in your global settings (I have changed mine to default to ‘Friends’ for example) and you can then customise further for each individual post, picture, etc. But the fact is, how aware is Joe Public about this?
In the world before social media (yes, I know it is tough but if we really cast our minds back, we can catch a glimpse of that antiquated time), the only way we could share our personal data was through letters, emails, phone calls and text messages. If someone, even if it was someone we knew, had snooped around our inbox, or rifled through our email, we would have got a bit disgruntled. Similarly, if I had left a letter on the train, I would be suitably annoyed that anybody and everybody could see my name and address. So, why is Facebook any different? I’m not talking about random “I wish it were Friday” or “More rain :(” type posts, but the other personal details we share on our profile. I cannot help but feel that you either have to know exactly who it is looking at your data, or that data should not be there. Okay, so perhaps you trust everyone on your friend list and you have your profile ‘locked down’ to friends only. But let me then ask, do you trust every single one of those ‘friends’ to not lend someone else their phone? Or remember to log-out when on a public computer? I know I certainly wouldn’t!
Now, please let be clarify, I am not against social media and whilst at times Facebook annoys me, it helps me keep in touch with the day-to-day lives of far-away friends. I am also an ardent Twitter user, as many of my blog readers will know. But I just feel it pays to be cautious – sharing with the world does not mean you have to put your mobile number AND address AND date of birth all on your profile. It does not mean you have to share all the ins-and-outs of your holiday plans (dates, times, flight details, alarm codes) with all-and-sundry. Yes, I will put my hands-up, I am rather paranoid. But, whilst I may take it to extremes, it doesn’t hurt to be a bit more cautious. Rant over 😉