Penelope Green from the New York Times has written an interesting article Yours for the Peeping about the lack of privacy people have on social networks like Facebook and comparing it to living in a glass house with no curtains. I agree with her. On Facebook users not only give out their first name and birth date to complete strangers, but the more idiotic ones among them also give out their home address and phone number. However, if you went up to these people on the street and asked for it, I am betting they would not release the same information as freely. Why then do they feel safe in doing so on the internet?
Even the more guarded of us on Facebook still give out some pretty personal information – who we are dating, where we are working and for those of us who keep our updates actually up to date, what we are doing at any given moment. It is a stalkers paradise. For those of you savvy enough to realise you can control your privacy settings, you have probably done what I have done , which is to make your Facebook profile harder to access than your front door. Only those given the key of friendship can unlock the secrets within.
Then again, I have seen people do that and then broadcast their Facebook memberships to the world and friend anyone who friends them, regardless of whether they know them or not. It is like locking your front door, but leaving your back door wide open.
I could go on and on with the house metaphors to try to illustrate the dangers of being so free with our personal information on the internet, but to preserve everyone’s sanity I will stop here.
Facebook is a wonderful network to re-establish contact with old high school and college friends as well as people currently in your offline social network. However, I think that it reveals way too much personal information to be used for making new friends online. There are a lot of social networks out there that let you use an online alias that are much better suited for these purposes. As the online friendship grows and trust develops, you might think of adding these cyberfriends to your Facebook. Just remember to think long and hard about exactly who you want knowing your personal details.