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A Critical Look at some SNS Issues. Case Study: Facebook. Criticism of Facebook. Privacy (more to come) child safety (NB US social trends post 9/11!) the use of advertising scripts data mining (more to come)

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criticism of facebook
Criticism of Facebook
  • Privacy (more to come)
  • child safety (NB US social trends post 9/11!)
  • the use of advertising scripts
  • data mining (more to come)
  • the inability to terminate accounts without first manually deleting all the content.
  • removal of adverts from the site (2008) because they were being displayed on the pages of controversial individuals and groups.
  • actual content of user's pages, groups and forums has been criticised for promoting controversial topics such as pro-anorexia and holocaust denial
  • management discrimination against certain topics
criticism of facebook privacy
Criticism of Facebook: Privacy
  • structure of the social network defines the community,
  • boundaries of the social network create privacy
  • Facebook grants members numerous privacy options:
    • control whether friends, other members, or non-members can view profile;
    • control whether friends or members can send them notifications;
    • control what information is sent to the outside world.
  • privacy is not only about control but also about trust and understanding. You can share your secrets—or your party plans—while keeping these secrets within a trusted circle of friends.

Places to go: Facebook - by Stephen Downes

criticism of facebook1
Criticism of Facebook
  • use of Facebook for surveillance and data mining. Early policy stated, "We may use information about you that we collect from other sources, including but not limited to newspapers and Internet sources such as blogs, instant messaging services and other users of Facebook, to supplement your profile. This has changed but,
  • possibility of data mining by private individuals unaffiliated with Facebook remains
criticism of facebook2
Criticism of Facebook
  • A second clause that warranted criticism from some users reserved the right to sell users' data to private companies, stating "We may share your information with third parties, including responsible companies with which we have a relationship.“Facebook eventually removed this clause from their privacy policy when it was updated on November 26, 2008, and now have a very qualified/watered down version.
  • Policy that when an account is deleted your data is retained indefinitely by Facebook remains
  • Intelligence agencies using Facebook for investigation – rights and warrants and privacy, oh my!
criticism of facebook3
Criticism of Facebook

Changes without consultation (to what extent is this justified? Ownership/rights?):

  • November 2009, Facebook issued a proposed new privacy policy, and adopted it unaltered in December 2009
  • combined with a rollout of new privacy settings
  • new policy declared certain information, including "lists of friends", to be "publicly available", with no privacy settings; it was previously possible to keep access to this information restricted.
criticism of facebook4
Criticism of Facebook
  • User who had set their "list of friends" as private were forced to make it public without even being informed, and the option to make it private again was removed.
  • Endangered users in countries like Iran – Why?
privacy vs openness
Privacy VS Openness
  • NB **Facebook as a case study but relevant to all SNS**
  • “Facebook gives nothing back to the broader web. A lot of stuff goes in, but nothing comes out. What happens in Facebook, stays in Facebook. As Robert Scoble noted, it's thus far been almost completely invisible to Google.

– Rubel, http://www.micropersuasion.com/2007/06/

  • Changing…
  • a lot of things aren’t searchable, but does that mean they’re secure? What about e.g. privacy of photos?
    • How can you show someone not on Facebook a photo that is restricted to friends or a specific network on Facebook?
privacy vs openness1
Privacy VS Openness
  • Following the aforementioned privacy changes in December 2009, Facebook criticised by the EFF and other privacy advocate groups –
    • "Facebook is nudging the settings toward the 'disclose everything' position," said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the US Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC). "That's not fair from the privacy perspective." EPIC said it was analysing the changes to see if they amounted to trickery.
    • The Electronic Frontier Foundation said: "These new 'privacy' changes are clearly intended to push Facebook users to publicly share even more information than before“, adding “Even worse, the changes will actually reduce the amount of control that users have over some of their personal data."


privacy vs openness2
Privacy VS Openness
  • Barry Schnitt (Facebook spokesman)
    • users can “avoid revealing some information to non-friends by leaving gender and location fields blank”. (Incidentally, FB no longer searchable by gender etc fields – why relevant?)
    • Being more open with updates is in line with "the way the world is moving".
  • Privacy problems occur due to human error too
    • “Earlier this year a woman shared photos of her husband in his swimming trunks and the location of their flat with the six million people on Facebook's London network. Which might have been OK had she not been the wife of the incoming head of MI6.”-http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/technology/2009/12/facebook_are_you_a_broadcaster.html
  • “Users of social networks are now splitting into two camps - what I would call the broadcasters and the whisperers” -Rory Cellan-Jones, BBC technology correspondent
privacy vs openness3
Privacy VS Openness
  • Facebook is at once too closed and too open because the functions it serves require both openness and privacy
  • Typical social network aims: connect people, let them introduce each other, communicate, share their thoughts and memories, create a community.
  • needs to encourage openness to do this, needs to provide members with a space where they can write and create and send messages to each other.
  • also needs to protect the integrity of the groups and the communities that are formed within its boundaries. To do this, it needs to keep the group's transactions behind closed doors to provide, not so much secrecy, but privacy.