Google is set to make a major change to their Terms of Service that will allow the company to use the user name and profile pictures of its Google Plus account members in reviews, advertising, and “other commercial contexts. ” This, coupled with Facebooks recent announcement that they are removing a setting that previously allowed users to be undiscoverable through their Graph Search, raises the question… oes privacy actually exist online? In the case of Google, the company says it plans to only share user names and profile hotos in conjunction with content users have chosen to help curate. For example, they may use the +1 you gave your favorite local bakery in an ad that the bakery runs through Google, or your rating of an album on your favorite band’s Google Play page may she shared with those in your Google Plus circles.
Although users will be able to opt out and control whether their image and name appear in ads via the Shared Endorsements setting, this is a major change for the platform that puts it more closely in line with Facebooks much scrutinized privacy policies. It’s also a move that s likely to perturb users who flocked to Google from Facebook because of privacy concerns and raises the question of what Google may be planning for the future.
Not to be outdone, Facebooks announcement that everyone will be searchable after the removal of an old privacy setting is raising many eyebrows”and rightfully so. “We’re removing the setting because it isn’t as useful as it was before,” read an announcement from Facebook when I recently logged in to my personal account. So, naturally, choosing to remove the setting altogether is better than attempting to mprove this tool which would enable account holders to control who can view their profiles? Apparently so.
Both companies seem to be using the argument that users are in control of what they share, and therefore are presenting an implied endorsement of sorts that they believe they have the rights to use for monetary or promotional gain. While it is true that status updates about a restaurant you like, a snapshot at an event you went to, or what you’re listening to, watching, or reading are put there by the users themselves, shouldn’t it also hold true that the information we hare about ourselves should still remain our information?
Although there are laws, both state and federal, currently in place that are supposed to safeguard internet users, these controls are not assurance that we are sheltered from companies using our personal information in ways we did not intend. Frequently these laws, and most frequently the privacy policies of internet companies, put an increasing amount of control in the hands of internet users, who unfortunately, often have inadequate training in and knowledge of the digital landscape.
This puts teens, the elderly, and other marginal web users at risk, as they are uninformed and uneducated to make the appropriate choices needed to protect their personal information on the internet. Even for more advanced internet users such as myself, it often difficult to understand my online privacy rights”not to mention that internet companies are not always transparent. As social media becomes more, well, social, companies like Google and Facebook should be taking the needed steps to make their privacy measures easier to comprehend and user friendly.
In the example of Facebooks most recent privacy privacy shortcuts. ” Okay, sure, but how? With the ambiguous nature of online privacy now and the Jargon of its top providers, digital literacy is an increasing must. Who should be responsible though? Should the command be placed on internet companies? Should it be left to the online user? Without a precise solution, the future of online privacy is clouded and the sole fix for the time being is to stay enlightened and precautious”otherwise your semi-private musings may turn up in a not-so- private place.
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