The Online Privacy Game

Photo credit: Yuri Arcurs

Facebook: love it and/or dislike it, they sure did come to the table with something that hundreds of millions of people find useful enough to incorporate into their modern lives.  I am one of those people who sort of loves Facebook and dislikes it at the same time.  I love it for the chance to meet up with friends from the past, have quick chats with friends and family from around the globe when I am on a crowded train,  and taking a look at what my friends are up to (via Newsfeed).  The dislike comes from the feeling that my 300 “friends” can secretly check up on me anytime and that if I write something on a friends wall (a big reason to use facebook over email) then certain people or groups of people can see the post that I may not be completely comfortably with seeing.  Of course I can go into settings and edit it so that only certain people can see my post, but that itself takes more time than the message itself!

Matt Mckeon’s excellent graphic shows how the privacy settings have evolved from 2005 through April 2010 is more ammunition for me to question whether this a tool I should “love”.  If one looks at the graphic closely, you can see how year by year more and more of our personal information is made public to more and more people.  Then again, if we are all being “exposed” by the hundreds of millions on facebook, does it really matter?  Doesn’t the new privacy settings provide a glut of information that most people could care to bother with?

Then again, if I was trying to shed some light on a presidential candidate like Herman Cain and I knew their was going to be some heat from his lawyers who just so happen to have millions of dollars to defend him, I would certainly worry about my Facebook settings and my online settings in general.  I feel sorry for people like Sharon Bialek, a Herman Cain accuser, who has had her life dissected by the GOP Presidential Candidate’s legal team right before the eyes of the public.  I can imagine in the not-so-far-away future how someone in her predicament would face a “serious online scan” by a powerful suit or two(most likely did already, must have passed!), just to check and see if she said anything outrageous online, or posted any “questionable photos”, so on and so forth.  It is easy to see how privacy settings and social media will affect politics, look no further than the Anthony Weiner “sexting” scandal.

With regards to education, I do feel like the online privacy game is changing.  Sites like are really challenging a teachers online presence, and therefore one’s online privacy.  If a teacher is to combat negative reviews online (if that is a problem), then it would make sense to have to share more of oneself on a professional and/or personal blog to shed a different light.  In doing so, one may have to share more (or work more!) online than one would like to, but in creating something like an “alter ego” online then a teacher protects his or herself and perhaps their careers.

The online privacy game is certainly changing.  I just hope we can all persevere under the constantly changing conditions.  Looking at it broadly, I hope that good can triumph over evil; a seemingly never-ending fight that seems to have made it’s way into the technological world.

6 thoughts on “The Online Privacy Game

  1. Mixing work with pleasure. I read an interesting article in the UK Guardian warning people about mixing personal life with professional networking. It went on to mention:

    “A LinkedIn spokeswoman following the site’s finding that 47% of web users are mixing their social and professional lives by accepting networking invitations from “frolleagues” – colleagues who send friendship requests…”

    link to

  2. How are you feeling about the increasing importance of having a positive online presence or positive digital footprint? If the privacy game is changing, what’s your strategy?

    • Hi Kim,
      Thanks for your comments. I suppose my strategy for navigating the online privacy situation is to create a positive digital footprint for myself. I am also taking advantage of the opportunity to change my privacy settings on sites like Facebook. I suppose my feelings for having a positive online presence is changing, as now I see a greater importance for creating a digital footprint that represents me in a proper manner.

  3. I think that anyone who is on Facebook at all is slightly guilty of spending time occasionally looking at photos of “friends” that you definitely no longer keep in touch with, or even better have completely forgotten about in years, to see what they are doing now. I am not sure what the psychology behind this is, but people can spend hours on Facebook just scrolling through posts and keeping up on people that you went to high school with decades ago. I actually found an interesting article on the psychology of Facebook profiles at: link to
    It is interesting the total variation between folks on Facebook. There are the people that rarely post, to those posting nothing but videos of their pets and every new movement their baby makes, to people who actually post pictures of what they ate for breakfast. I think people forget that everything they post is no longer theirs, so to say, and that you have a digital footprint that follows you.
    As an international secondary school teacher, I always had a rule that I would never accept students as “friends” on Facebook until they graduated and no longer were my students. I have recently changed that entirely, and instead have created an entirely separate account for students. I believe that privacy is important, and though it is important to build relationships with students, the key word should be healthy relationships including boundaries. Should people really be “friends” with their students? I find having a teacher Facebook account to be incredibly beneficial to me. it is much simpler to get in touch with my Student Council students about meetings, or with my soccer players about where practice will be held. I find it interesting though that students are so quick to “friend” teachers, yet completely ignore the fact that we can see everything they post. I find some of things I see them post appalling, though they have also become teachable moments.
    Thanks for the tidbit about I had never heard of this site before, and although it looks as if they don’t operate internationally (outside of the Western world), I looked up my previous high school I taught at in the States. It was really interesting to see what ratings certain teachers got that I formerly worked with. I do find it to be an interesting question, and an even trickier balance in deciding where the digital boundaries should exist between teacher and student.

    • Thanks Jillian for your response. Yes, I like your idea of setting up a separate facebook account, that seems like it would really work well. Recently I have set up a seperate twitter account for personal use to follow people I like outside of education, and I like it yet feel like I am talking to an empty crowd as I don’t have near as many followers as my educational account.

      Good to see that the teacher facebook account idea is working in practical manners, something I will have to consider. Thanks for the link as well!

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