Oct 14, 2009

Watch your steps online!

This post has already been published here. However, I added some more words, more analyses, and I did a bit more research on it. So, here is what I have come up with.

“Do not do something in private that you are ashamed of demonstrating it in public,” Said the 14th century Persian poet, Hafiz Shirazi. Hafiz has many moral maxims, in his poems, about honesty. However, if Hafiz knew how to search Google to get information about a person, would he still put his time in inviting people to be honest?

Thanks to the Internet, we can find information of any kind. Just type a few words, and click. Online networking, as a phenomenon on the Internet, has created many opportunities in expanding social relationships. On the other hand, the more you are networking, the more you are decreasing your privacy.

Social networking Websites have given us the opportunity to be connected with each other. For instance, I “follow”, and am being “followed” by, Barack Obama and Britney Spears on my Twitter account. Twitter is a “social networking and micro-blogging service” that allows to post your status within 140 characters. It is a convenient way of getting information about everything. It has also created potential opportunities for businesses to build relationship with their customers. By using Twitter search engine, businesses may find their customers’ concerns about their products, or seek opportunities to develop new products. Since the “tweet” (the so-called status updates) is limited to 140 characters, you need to use the words as efficiently as possible.

On my Facebook account, I am a “friend” of Dr. Barnett Rubin. He is an expert on Afghanistan. I know he has no time to talk to me in person. However, I have chatted with him via Facebook several times, and taken advantage of his opinions on Afghanistan issues. Thus, I have made many friends, even among celebrities, whom I’ve always had the dream of having a chance to talk to.

In the professional arena, “social networking sites are exploding in popularity, as people look to connect with pretty much everyone they know...” LinkedIn, a “professional networking site”, has provided employment opportunities. According to Site Analytic, the number of LinkedIn’s unique visitors has been doubled since last year, getting 14,241,651 people for the month of August 2009. On LinkedIn, you can connect to people in your field of expertise. Also, you can seek job opportunities through expanding the number of your “connections”.

However, when you look at the other side of the coin, you will understand how fast you are disseminating your personal information to everyone; something inevitable, in online social networking. You post your photos on Facebook, update your status, share videos, news, links, etc. Just imagine how easy it is getting into the depth of your personality, through all this information; it would be terrifying!

Facebook is concerned about the privacy of their users. The Facebook Privacy Policy says, “We understand you may not want everyone in the world to have the information you share…” However, this claim is opposing the philosophy of Facebook’s functions. In its nature, Facebook is a “data mining company… that seeks to open and/or disseminate private information to third parties for commercial purposes…” According to the Privacy Policy:

“… these third party advertisers may […] download cookies to your computer […] to personalize advertising content.”

What Facebook wants is “to make as much information as possible on Facebook public.” On July 01, 2009, Facebook made some changes in the privacy setting of the Website, providing an option as “everyone”. By choosing that, you would allow all people on the Web to access your information. Of course, this is what, not only Facebook, but also any other social networking Website requires; putting your things in public.

Being on the Web is risky. It is not always about inadequate privacy policies of social networking Websites. Sometimes, it’s you who is not careful about what is being said or done. For example, imagine you are applying for a job. The employer does a search for your name on Google. A lot of information, photos, and texts, by your name, are being up. Okay, there would be no problem if they are just good things. But, what if, you’ve, someday, shared a porn photo or video? Or, after applying for the job, you blog that you “hate the job and you just have to get that!” However, “Google never forgets.” Then, can you imagine what the reaction of that employer would be towards you?

Online networking is a gift by the Internet. Yet it has its own advantages, and disadvantages. It depends on us as how we want to use it. However, one thing should never be forgotten: You need to be careful in your online life, as if, there is always an eye watching you!

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