The success of Facebook in harvesting millions of users in such a short span of time stirred the world with speculations on the effects of social networking sites.
Social networking sites such as Facebook, Friendster, My Space and Multiply have become popular because they provide venues for individuals to express themselves. Using these sites, users are able to design their pages with graphics, texts, videos and music that convey their thoughts, feelings and beliefs. Through these sites, users connect conveniently with other people from across the globe with whom they may share similar interests.
With the social networking sites’ emphasis on the individual and on expanding his network, the issue of privacy inevitably raises many eyebrows. The surge of social networking sites also triggered the occurrence of virtual crimes such as identity theft, and unlawful usage of personal information, to name a few. Along with the functional benefits and entertainment brought by these sites, pertinent privacy issues have also been rigging these virtual social circles.
Social networking sites are assured of privacy protection as provided in the privacy agreement between the user and the site made upon by the former’s registration.
These sites also have privacy options and settings that users can customize to control who can view their personal information. However, one of the problems of users is that the settings in some social networking sites do not offer enough flexibility. This causes unreliable information protection on the part of the users.
Facebook, for example, asks for basic personal information upon a new user’s registration. Users are asked to give two kinds of information:
those that the user willfully provides to disclose and display on the site, and
those that the site collects in order for the user to use and interact through the site.
The first type of information is composed of personal details that users choose to share such as interests, telephone number, occupation etc. The second type is simply the pertinent registration details such as name and email address. The same information and privacy policies are observed in the use of MySpace, Tagged, and Friendster.
However, another website, QMPeople.com, features a different set of policies from that of these mainstream social networking sites. QMPeople.com allows its users more flexibility in their information input. This makes users feel safer in meeting and interacting with other QMPeople users all over the world. This site provides privacy features that users can fully enjoy without worrying of the possible risks of disclosing information online.
Another major privacy concern of social networking site is that they cannot possibly control what users can say to their fellow users. At this time and age when economy and technology, among other factors, fuel people to be more and more aggressive in attaining higher goals, even the technology of the internet is used for monetary gain and other personal intents.
Yet in the cases of legal separation or divorce, information such as photos and wall posts gleaned from social networking sites can be used in the court room as evidences. Thus, the general rule of caution is imperative in the use of any social networking site.