The Power and Politics of Privacy on Social Networking Sites

The Power and Politics of Privacy on Social Networking Sites

Privacy is an important factor of social networking sites. During the year of 2005, Facebook’s privacy policy was very strict and did not allow anyone to access your profile without the owner’s consent. In 2006, they incorporated a new regulation that prevented everyone in the world access to your profile, but instead only permit access to a limited group of people a person gave access to pertaining to your residence. A year later, again a change occurred to the policy. This time, a group you belong to or a friend of a friend can access or see information on your profile unless the user has made changes to their privacy settings. In 2009, if the user does not change their privacy to prevent everyone from seeing what is on your page, then information your page can be used by a third party ( non- Facebook users) by simply searching for the page on the internet. Now the privacy policy is not catered to the users but to business to help them as well as Mark Zuckerberg to gain a profit.

Privacy policies set by social media websites and others are important to the users of their websites. People want to feel that all of their information is safe. In this paper, we are going to discuss the importance of internet privacy and the politics that follow. Also, the tactics Facebook’s creator, Mark Zuckerberg used to quietly change the privacy policy. Lastly, we are going to discuss which stakeholders is the holds the most power in deciding the future of how the privacy policy will be fashioned.

In my opinion, I feel that all online sites should create tactics that emphasize high level of privacy protection for their users. When individuals sign up for social media sites, they intend to reconnect with old friends and colleagues or possibly make new ones, not have their personal information shared with third parties.

On a scale from 1-10, my concern about my personal information on any social media site is a 10. When joining these sites, there’s certain information (like you address and telephone number) that you have to share and would hope not get out to public. I know that when I am on social media sites I am careful not to post my location or anything too personal because there are some people out to harm others. I believe that using information about your consumers in order to improve your business or service is acceptable. However, the manner in which they do it may not be as acceptable. There should be an option that is obvious and not hidden in the settings, that should allow consumers to have the choice if they want their activities shared or not. It is somewhat concerning to know that what I may do, search, or buy online is being used without my knowledge. These websites should blatantly layout how they access this information and what they use it for. That shows the consumer that the website companies are honest and their best interests are a priority.

Online privacy is definitely an issue. It has been for years. Companies like Facebook and Myspace are concerned with generating sales through ads rather than adequately protecting personal information. Consumers should also be to blame. They are so focused on getting access to these social sites that they don’t read the “terms of use” as they sign up; I’m sure statements about privacy and other important elements are included. Now that this issue has been brought to the forefront, consumers need to limit the information they’re putting on Facebook, Myspace, etc.  Lastly, the government and advocacy groups should do what they can to ensure our rights, as consumers, are protected.

After Mark Zuckerberg changed the original terms of use on February 4, 2009, he used the legitimating tactics. Legitimating tactics occur when the appeal is based on legitimate or position power. This tactic relies upon compliance with rules, laws, and regulations. It is not intended to motivate people but to align them behind a direction. Mark decided to quietly change the terms, governing how and for how long Facebook users’ information posted to the popular website. This change would allow Facebook to do anything it wanted with posted content, as long as it wants (even if the used closed his/her account). He did so without informing his users, expecting them to just comply.  In this case, I feel that users should be careful about what they post.

Mark Zuckerberg used the legitimate power political tactic whenever he changed the terms of Facebook privacy. He did it very discreetly and without notifying Facebook users because he can. He is the CEO of Facebook and he basically has the power to do whatever he wants. He changed the terms based on the policies and rules of the company. He then received negative feedback so he used his power again to tweak the policy change.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg used the legitimating tactic after he changed the original terms of use on February 4, 2009. When the legitimating tactics occurs it is based on position power. As CEO, Mark made the decision to change the terms of use that govern how and how long Facebook can use consumers’ personal information. The only problem was that he did it quietly. Only after advocacy groups and blogs brought it to the attention of consumers, Mark decided to change the terms back to their original form.

I feel that the most powerful stakeholders in terms of shaping the future direction of online privacy issues are the users. Without users, each of the social media sites would lose its revenue. If the users do not feel that their privacy is protected, eventually they will stray away from the site. If there are no users, then social networking companies won’t have any personal information to generate advertising revenue; advertising firms won’t know who to target for specific market segments; privacy advocacy groups won’t have any information to limit disclosure; technology companies won’t have any information to share; and the government won’t be able to find signs of malevolent activities, all because there are no users.

Of the stakeholders listed, I believe that the government is the most powerful in terms of shaping the future direction of online privacy issues. Ultimately, users, social networking companies, advertising firms, privacy advocacy groups, and technology companies are not nearly as powerful as the government. Whatever the government may say or outlaw, these other stakeholders have to abide by it or risk being shut down. The government can say “No more sharing of your users’ private information” tomorrow, and they will have no choice but to stop. But who knows if they will enforce the rule or not, which leads to a whole different view. If the rules are not enforced, I believe that users have the most power. If the users figure out their information is being shared and they do not like that idea, they will eventually stop using that particular website or service. If a business has no consumers or users in this case, their business will potentially fade away. The only reason users would not have as much power is because they are one group of so many people. They are not necessarily on the same page with the same goal.  Privacy Advocacy group unite the users. The users are still the most important aspect of a business because without someone buying your product, using your service, or surfing your website, you really do not have much. Every group in this list has some sort of power. Advertising firms spend the money and technology companies made it possible for websites to exist.

I believe that privacy advocacy groups have the most power in terms of shaping the future direction of online privacy issues. Advocacy groups are like the spokesperson for consumers. They have more power to bring awareness and change the issue through protests, meeting with government officials, etc.

The stakeholders that hold the most power in deciding how the privacy policy will be in the near future is the government. The government has the most power to decide how things are regulated. If they feel as if there is a threat forming on any site they can implement a new law that can change the policy of that site. All they need is a slight change in behavior of the users to trigger their decision.