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Is there such a thing as privacy in social media?

As social media (and online) usage in general continues to grow, the privacy debate is becoming more intense. 

Privacy has always been a controversial issue and this has particularly intensified in the developing landscape of social media.  The word privacy means diverse things to different people and takes on another layer with social networks.

The more we interact with social media sites and relinquish information the more noticeably we diminish our privacy. As these sites become additionally popular and individuals interact further, more information is likely to be disclosed. It is a user driven collapse that shows no bounds. Everyone potentially opens themselves up to a number of issues including identify theft, hacking of personal information and stalking- all of which are on the rise.

In addition, there are ethical concerns in regards to data storage, and harvesting of personal information. Currently, the information given up by users is collected and sold off to companies as the information is considered valuable and worth billions of dollars to marketers.

Social media sites actively encourage disclosure of information and in most cases people are willing give up information without a second thought. Birthdays, employment information, friends, photos are uploaded, and slowly a picture of your life is accessible online. The more individuals engage with social media sites, the more information they volunteer. Once the information has been willingly communicated it stays there permanently. This content can be easily searched and can become accessible to any number of people not originally intended to see the information. The default privacy settings on social media sites still remain weak and in some cases are very complex to understand regardless of what the organisations say.

When individuals keenly give up personal information, it shifts the boundaries in terms of what is acceptable content to be considered private. As privacy is being challenged in the context of social media are people concerned about this lack of transparency?  Or are the expectations of privacy changing and therefore our mindset is adjusting?

The most proactive approach moving forward if privacy online is still a priority, is encouraging a culture of self responsibility and education where users are aware that the more information you give up the less privacy you have. This is especially so with teenagers who still lack maturity and don’t fully understand the consequences of disclosing information.

The line between what is considered personal information in the context of privacy is being blurred. If people are concerned about their information, the only safe way to keep it private is to not put it online.