“It turns out that when I used my Facebook account to create my profile, Pinterest accessed my personal information to automatically have me start following common connections,” Elizabeth Lupfer writes. “In my book, Pinterest broke a basic tenet of online privacy: to not invasively use my online information.” I’m continually amazed when the cry goes out about the sharing of “personal data” amongst social networking platforms.”
Before we go any further, let’s talk about couple of issues in the post. First, to gain access to Pinterest, you do NOT have to login using Facebook, as one of the people quoted in the article claims. In addition to Facebook and Twitter, they have always had a way to login using your email address and a password. Second, even in the current iteration, when you login using Facebook, you are given the option to have them “automatically” find your friends or not. Could their wording be improved that wording and implementation be improved? Sure, I don’t disagree with Elizabeth.
Pinterest Is The Least Of My Privacy Issues
The bigger concern, for me at least, is the notion that somehow connecting to anything using Facebook gives you an assurance of privacy? For a long time now I’ve been making the assumption that anything I post onto Facebook, in public or private, has the potential to be seen by someone I don’t know. Sure, there’s a reasonable amount of protection built in that gives me assurance that Facebook is NOT displaying information to people through the normal Facebook channels. But it’s not the “normal” Facebook channels that concern me.
A lot of services that use Facebook as a login option have their apps set to request almost unlimited access to your data when you opt in for their services. And I find that most people I speak with click “ok” without giving it too much thought. When an app asks for access to their Facebook account or when it asks to find their friends, they simply click “ok.” At that point, you’ve given up any reasonable assumption of privacy you may have had.
In truth, “your privacy takes a beating every time you open your web browser,” Ed Bott writes. Enter PrivacyScores.com. A quick look at some of the scores of major information sites is sobering, and sites like Facebook and Twitter actually receive exceptionally high scores for safeguarding your privacy, with scores of 94 and 95 respectively. Even Pinterest.com has a stellar privacy score of 95. Some major web publishers don’t fair as well. They have much lower scores. “The generally low scores that web publishers in general earn using this tool is a sobering reminder that the balance of power is tilted in favor of those who collect and use information, often without your consent.” And I’m not sure most people care. Many have forgotten their creating content that in the not to recent past was considered private.
Do they care enough to switch? No. They don’t. The behavior patterns of even smart internet users indicate that people aren’t really concerned all that much. I get the impression that much of the web population is oblivious to any concerns, outside of the their concerns around credit card and identity theft. But there is way more to privacy than those issues.
This is part of the reason why it’s not an easy topic to understand. Even the legal system is having a hard time adjusting to the changing landscape and our changing values around it. Read through the curated posts in this Standford Law Review for a sense of the breadth.
Christine Marciano – @dataprivacyrisk
The Privacy Paradox: Privacy and Its Conflicting Values (Stanford Law Review Symposium Issue) http://t.co/JdKyzkjW #privacy > Great read!
“We live in an age of “big data.” Data has become the raw material of production, a new source of immense economic and social value.” And where there is money, there is bound to be compromised values. But this is the least of the concerns. Law makers playing in this field have the potential of unlocking a Pandora’s box of unintended consequences.
Of particular interest to me was the European Commissions move to create a new privacy right called, “The Right To Be Forgotten.” Jeffery Rosen wrote, “The right to be forgotten could make Facebook and Google, for example, liable for up to two percent of their global income if they fail to remove photos that people post about themselves and later regret, even if the photos have been widely distributed already. Unless the right is defined more precisely when it is promulgated over the next year or so, it could precipitate a dramatic clash between European and American conceptions of the proper balance between privacy and free speech, leading to a far less open Internet.”
Where Does Personal Responsibility Come Into Play?
I personally find it hard to believe that any network should be held liable for my inability to restrain myseflf from publish content I don’t really want anyone to see. And that brings me to the title of this post. Online privacy is an oxymoron and that the real problem with online privacy lies at the individual responsibility level. How is a website responsible for you sharing things you should never have shared in the first place? I don’t think they are.
Is my online privacy really safe with Pinterest? Sure. Why not? Since personal data isn’t generally shared there, my privacy is safe. But then again, I assume that nothing is truly private in online social networks. Especially if I’m granting one network access to another. I assume that a network has the potential to do things I’m unaware of with the connections and information I allow them access to. And perhaps we’d all be better off if we accepted the idea that online privacy really is a misnomer.
Then, perhaps,we’d simply stop clicking “ok” without thinking through the ramifications, stop making assumptions about what they will or won’t do with our information, and perhaps we’d stop blaming social network platforms for letting our “private” behavior out in the wild.
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