Posted by: lrrp | March 31, 2008

Security and social networking

Facebook introduced new privacy controls last week that gave users the ability to preserve social distinctions between friends, family and co-workers online. The changes will allow Facebook’s more than 67 million active users worldwide to control what their friends, and friends of their friends see.

Part of Facebook’s appeal has been the greater degree of privacy controls it offers users compared with other major social network sites, the site has also been the target of two major rebellions by its users in response to new features many felt exposed previously private information to wider view. Facebook claims however that only 25 percent of existing users have bothered to take control of their privacy using Facebook’s existing personal information settings and after a thorough search through my own friends list on Facebook, I found that the numbers match up quite well.

Privacy and data security are prominent issues in the IT industry. Corporations spend billions of dollars on extra measures to protect their data from unauthorised access as well as destruction as well as corruption from natural causes and non-malicious actions. Individuals on the other hand – save a few–seem less concerned about the privacy of their personal information especially on the Internet.

Perhaps that is because privacy is very much a personal issue or preference for individuals. The dangers that threaten the security and privacy of information in computer networks in particular is potentially equally damaging to individuals as it is for organisations and more and more individuals are exposing themselves (and their private information) to potential black-mailers, bullies and stalkers. Attacks on individuals and their online identities are often by personal definition as well as in their motive.

Perhaps, it is because individuals take more leverage out of the fact that they are only answerable to themselves – unlike organizations that have to answer to their shareholders for example. Individuals also suffer the consequences of their lack of concern for privacy alone and in private – rarely seeking help.

The point I am actually trying to make is that, we must realise that there are a basic set of knowledge and skills that each individual needs to be well versed in before ‘stepping into’ the internet – just like we have to know how to drive and have a good knowledge about road rules and basic car care before we are legally allowed to drive.

Disregarding the importance of knowing how to use the Internet in a meaningful, courteous and safe manner can not only lead to a net loss in your online interactions but can be also dangerous.

Back on Facebook, the company is working on a new instant messaging chat feature that runs on the web browser, allowing users to hold spontaneous back-and- forth chat with their friends on the site without the need to download or install any software. Facebook Chat, as the feature is known, will be introduced in a matter of weeks.


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