A look at the difference between public and private forums, and why the problem is not what people think it is.
Following a previous post on giving away too much information and some recent scare news here is my opinion on the differences between public and private content, in particular some common misconceptions and misplaced blame…
In recent news the social media rating service Klout! has been getting some bad press and I think it’s (mostly) undeserved. The issue that’s been picked up and reported is that Klout have created profiles for people (minors in particular) that have never used and are often unaware of their service.
Now the reason I don’t see this as being a big deal is that the only information a Klout profile contains is already publicly available. Granted Klout may be making the information more readily accessible but then the people likely to use Klout would be familiar with social networks anyway and so could easily find the information directly had they wanted to.
Returning to the Klout issue, while a person’s profile on a social network like Facebook may be private, any interaction between that profile and any public forum is inherently public. If you’re having a conversation on the telephone that might reasonably be considered private, but if you’re stood in a crowded place then at least your half of the conversation is taking place in a public forum and you can no longer hold a reasonable expectation of privacy. You can’t complain that random strangers inadvertently overheard your story when you chose to say the words out loud while stood next to them.
The challenge then is educating people (minors in particular) about the differences between public and private, and highlighting the boundaries. This is not an easy challenge though and people seem reluctant to learn or accept change until they’ve suffered some detriment themselves.
The problem is exacerbated by people happily ‘friending’ total strangers; a recent study has shown that 1in5 people would accept a Facebook friend request from a total stranger (actually an automated bot) and this rises to 3in5 if there is a mutual contact. If someone will let a total stranger into their personal circle of friends I think it’s unreasonable to then complain that personal and private conversations have been leaked outside of your supposedly protected circle.
This is likely to be a contentious issue so I look forward to your constructive comments down below…