Privacy of Social Profiles
Is there social value in the insecurity of social networks?
Credit: http://www.techfyre.com/facebook-privacy-protected-address-and-phone-numbers/There has been great controversy over privacy and security of personal information on social networks. The public feels entitled to the state’s protection of their personal identities and privacy despite their willingness to publish that information in an unprivatized channel. At the same time, the public at large believes that social identities are not equivalent to real identities and thus behavior within social media cannot be condemned or legally reprimanded by the state that is supposed to be protecting it. Unfortunately, social media is often influential of matters in the real world, both formally and informally. The positive and negative effects of the open disclosure of social profiles are difficult to ascertain, but can best be evaluated by looking at the following scenarios.
Consider a young man who was denied a job based on unprofessional behavior in his Facebook pictures. His Facebook profile is public, so the employer was able to access the profile and used it to evaluate him as a potential employee. After seeing pictures of him drinking excessively, the company deemed him to be unfit for the job, based on a lack of control over his public image. Though the employer's evaluation of the social profile is somewhat questionable, the company’s judgments about the applicant are fair, since his profile is giving him a negative public image. Is it ethical for the employer to evaluate an applicant’s social profile from a business perspective when Facebook is a largely social spectrum? It has become a common practice in recent years, but consider the fact that social media’s function has changed drastically in the last five years. Many people set up Facebook profiles in college or even high school, at a time when they could not have anticipated the future of the social network. From that perspective, the employer may be judging the applicant too harshly. Though he should have thought to make the profile more acceptable, it may be unethical to reject the applicant onCredit: http://www.sexysocialmedia.com/career-opportunity-and-facebook/ this basis alone, if he is the most qualified for the position. Another consideration is that there is often no warning to job applicants about this invasion of social privacy. People are still adapting to this new world and can’t always be expected to be on top of things when things are still, as previously mentioned, in a transitive state. Lastly, is it the responsibility of the social network to inform its users that there privacy is not protected in the way they often assume it to be? Facebook especially has been guilty of withholding certain truths, or making the regulations and security of user profiles less explicit than it should be. Could the applicant blame Facebook for not telling him how to maintain his profile’s privacy? These are among a myriad of questions that arise in situations like this one, but the answers are never straightforward or easy, and often call in to question the value of social media and its detrimental effects on personal privacy.
However, that is not to say that social networks only yield negative effects, they also have shown many beneficial attributes. One of the most useful aspects of social networking is that it’s ability to interconnect the world allows for creation of new ideas out of a combined intellect that would not have been possible otherwise. People who live on opposite sides of the globe can Credit: http://www.goal-setting-college.com/success/mastermind-groups-i/interact and synthesize their knowledge in a way that enables innovation to be more varied. Also, very importantly, the virtual communication of social networks allows for this exchange of knowledge to occur without the same inhibitions by social attitudes or cultural stigmas.
But how does a lack profile privacy lead to this synthesis of knowledge? Consider the connections that often arise between strangers who comment on public pages or on pages of mutual friends. For example, imagine a Japanese man starts interacting with an American man after liking the same comment that their friend made on a forum. Their shared "like" of the comment is in itself creating a foundation of mutual understanding upon which an interaction can be formed. Also, as mentioned in the previous discussion of social network interactions, people are often more at ease when communicating virtually, so friendship can be formed more easily and primarily the on grounds of common interests. What if their interaction led to a discussion of ideas and eventually, the creation of a new technology? This example may seem to be a bit of a stretch, but the concept of spontaneous interaction through mutual interest is quite possible, if not very likely to occur on social networks.
In traditional circumstances, these two people may never encounter each other let alone begin to communicate. And even if they did meet, the cultural norms of the Japanese society and the competitiveness of American culture would likely prevent them from working together. Traditional social interaction, despite its many advantages, also carries with it the natural prejudices of one society towards another society if the other holds contradictory beliefs, has a vastly different culture, or is merely of another race. In this scenario, virtual communication is actually ideal, because these two individuals can form what Napoleon Hill Credit: http://whoissvenwolf.com/956/how-to-set-and-achieve-goals-mastermind-groups/describes as a “mastermind group,” or “the coordination of knowledge between two or more people who work toward a defined purpose in the spirit of harmony.” According to Hill, this "coordination of knowledge" is also a state of creation because “no two minds can ever come together without also producing a third intangible force which may be akin to a third mind.” The main purpose of social networking is undoubtedly to bring people together and in the fulfillment of this purpose it may be that its value is not the users, but their social connections. This connective value is supported by Hill's theory because as more connections are formed, there is a greater and greater chance of “mastermind groups” to arise.
So it seems that, like everything in social media, the security of personal information and ideas on social profiles is ambiguous in quality. Like the previously discussed concept of social interaction permanency, the value of giving others access to personal information is of the same quality as the content of that information.
This concludes Part III of "Evaluating Social Media Ethics;" Part IV will discuss the ethics of social media marketing and other ways in which social media is used by businesses.