Every time I go into Twitter or Facebook on my new laptop, I get a lecture from Trend Micro on my lenient privacy settings.
Particularly I get warned that the Public can see my Facebook posts and Twitter messages, that others can tag me in photos, and that others can see personal information. On the last point, only “business address and phone” information ever gets posted online, anywhere. In fact, I normally don’t have circles of security clearances among who can see what information about me online. It’s all or nothing.
Some of my curiosity about this was motivated by the video in the previous post, where the speaker (a television station reporter) said that allowing anyone but approved “Friends” (Faceook) or approved “followers” (Twitter) would create gratuitous security risks that insurance companies would find unacceptable behavior on the part of consumers.
Facebook has different concepts, like Friends, Pages, and Groups. Many people have Pages with followers. They cannot be made private (you can block comments from specific people). You can make a Group by invitation only, which is closer to the concept Trend seems to be encouraging. The conventional wisdom has been that you allow only Friends to see your posts on your Friends page. But Facebook allows up to 5000 friends. It is common for people to have over a thousand. Many, perhaps most, Facebook users don’t carefully screen who gets approved as a friend. I do allow friends from overseas (including Arabic names). I generally disapprove of minors only. (Posts made by others on your timeline in public mode can normally be seen by “friends of friends”).
Some people, after being friends, do behave in an unwelcome way. Some send greetings or messages and expect to be answered back. A couple have made pleas for “personal” help with matters I can do nothing about (at least lawfully). One female kept making silly posts on my Timeline claiming to tag me in sexual pictures when the individual was not me. I did unfriend her and the posts stopped.
I also had one occasion where someone created a fake copy of my account with no posts. A legitimate friend (the person who copyedited my books) caught it and reported it to Facebook and the entry was removed before I knew about it.
Tagging has crept up as a problem, for users who allow it. I’ve noticed that some people are more sensitive about being photographed in bars or discos than they used to be, say, before 2010. A few social establishments have started prohibiting photography inside their facilities.
In Twitter, it is possible to set up your account so that all followers have to be approved. Relatively few users do this, but they will block followers who seem stalky or who don’t follow supposed etiquette (by replying to too many tweets when not being co-followed), although etiquette standards are changing again rapidly.
As a practical matter, limiting visibility of posts to “Friends” or approved followers probably doesn’t increase security very much, because it is so easy to be approved and because, to be successful and have an outreach, people need friends and followers. Indeed, it wouldn’t stop “catfishing” (as in Nev Schulman’s 2010 film “Catflish” for Rogue pictures, as with a recent incident from a fake female catfisher in Manitoba).
On Facebook, I notice that some Friends (even with privacy set to “Friends only”) will “check in” with that red dot that lets others track their movements; I don’t think this is a good idea myself. But part of this is that I don’t want anyone to “take me for granted”, beyond security. Likewise, I don’t announce (even to Friends) what events I will attend, even if I report on the events after the fact on blogs. Maybe that isn’t playing ball. I think back to the days of my upbringing in the 50s; my parents probably “shared” their lives with about ten other families, as with Thanksgiving and Christmas gift sharing that I remember so well (and with the Ocean City beach trips with one family I remember, too). As for services like Snapchat: I feel that if I need a conversation that doesn’t go anywhere, I just have it by smart phone or in person. I don’t like the idea of sharing video or photo that disappears. (Kathy Griffin should know.)
All of this is interesting because Zuckerberg invented Facebook at the time that Myspace had become popular (to the extent that Dr. Phil had programs about misbehavior on Myspace), and, despite winning out over several competing ideas (the movie “The Social Network”; the books “The Accidental Billionaires” by Ben Mezrich, or “The Facebook Effect” by David Kirkpatrick). Zuckerberg originally intended to set up Facebook for campus environments. It wasn’t fully public until about 2007 and it didn’t get into its controversial news feed aggregation (so plagued by the fake news that is said to have helped elect Donald Trump) until maybe about 2010 (when Time Magazine honored Zuckerberg as person of the year, the “Connector”).
What such a practice would do, however, is try to discourage online self-publishing with free content. Social media was built on the premise that known lists of people see your content, more or less like email listservers (or restricted membership sites) that were popular before modern social media. When people are popular and have lots of “fans”, the practical effect is that social media account is public anyway. It is true that actual friends or followers are more likely to see posts even on public accounts. Blogs can also have “followers” and, with Blogger, can be made “private” (as can YouTube videos), but the normal result is that few people would see them. Blog following has become less popular since Facebook took off, although YouTube channel subscription is still somewhat popular.
The relevant point seems to be that when you publish a hardcopy (or Kindle or Nook) book, you don’t have the “right” to know who bought it. That’s the traditional idea or model of “open publication”. Self-instantiation by open self-publication, with leaving a lot of content free, seems to be a morally suspect or gratuitous practice (even if it purports to offer alternative viewpoints and critical thinking as I think mine do) in the minds of some people: if it doesn’t pay its own way, it competes unfairly with writers who do need to make a living at it; it discourages professionalism and facilitates fake news, it can attract cultural enemies (to others as well as the self), leading to the insurance concerns, and (probably most of all) it breaks up political solidarity for those (on both the (alt) right and left) who want to recruit loyal volunteers and who want to control the (often polarized and tribally-centered) message. “Belonging” to some group seems to be imperative. The election and relentlessly tribal and boorish behavior of Donald Trump seems to have brought this point home.
In fact, in the eyes of intellectual property law, this isn’t quite right. “Publication” in defamation law is communicating the false defamatory claim to even one person who understands the message (which can be one approved friend or follower, or just one email recipient).
I opined before, back in 2000, that “open” self-publication can become an unethical practice for people in some positions (like those with direct workplace reports, when there is a concern over possible workplace results). Now it’s a possible security issue, especially in asymmetric warfare where civilians can attract enemies who view civilians as combatants. Yet it’s odd that security company like Trend Micro gets to define what that means, for everybody.
Some observers (like Ramsay Taplan, “Blogtyrant” of Australia) urge an inside-out approach to blogging, focusing on consumer niches that are inherently profitable, the narrower the better. Then, he says, become aggressive in building email lists from actual customers who need you wand welcome hearing from you, which confounds the conventional wisdom today about spam. But this practice refers to writing that supports an inherently commercial product or service, not self-expression online for its own sake or even for promoting critical thinking on political or social controversies.
(Posted: Saturday, June 3, 2017 at 11:15 AM EDT)