Internet Anonymity Is Over Forever

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2010-05-10 Print this article Print

5. Facebook's privacy settings are actually useful

Before using Facebook, user should tweak their privacy settings. Although they were originally panned by critics who felt Facebook wasn't acting with users' best interests in mind, most have found the site's privacy settings to be relatively robust in the social networking world. Within just a few minutes of consulting the site's settings, users can easily decide which people are allowed to see the content in their profiles. Facebook says it realizes that privacy is important and, luckily, it's providing the tools users need to feel comfortable.

6. The Web isn't the place to share sensitive information

Years ago, the Web was a bastion of anonymity. Time and again, users would add comments to Websites, have flame wars in forums and never reveal their true identity. But as sites like Facebook and MySpace have grown, the desire for anonymity has slowly diminished as users share more and more information about themselves. It has gotten so bad that some folks are even willing to share their precise location. If privacy is really what they want, users need to remember that of all places, the Internet is not the place to divulge sensitive data. Users should only share what they're comfortable with every Web user seeing.

7. Sometimes privacy isn't best for a social network

It's not in a social network's best interest for users to have every single privacy setting at their disposal. That's why Facebook's default settings make certain information available to others. But it's important for users to understand that. In order to make information private, they will need to be more diligent than they might like to be, simply because the more information is shared on a social network, the more likely people are to want to use it. Facebook knows it, MySpace knows it and Google knows it. And until users know it and start fighting back, the privacy troubles will keep coming.

8. The alternatives aren't any better

Facebook might have some privacy and security issues that trouble its users, but the alternatives aren't any better. After an inauspicious beginning, Google Buzz has been the target of privacy advocates wondering why the company didn't implement the right policies in the first place. When MySpace was the top social network in the world, it too suffered from privacy problems. When it comes time to compare all privacy on all the major social networks, Facebook comes out on top. If privacy is a user's main concern, Facebook is probably the best choice out of any social network.

9. Some privacy is gone forever

The days of anonymity on the Web (if they ever existed) are officially over as users are increasingly revealing their true identities. To some, that's a problem. But the vast majority of users are becoming more comfortable with that reality. As Web users sign up for social networks, they can expect at least their names and a picture of themselves to be available on the Web within minutes. And because so many users share basic information, like their hometown and where they went to college, even that information is freely available. Whether we like it or not, absolute privacy is now impossible to attain. And we have to live with that (and accept it).

10. It's easy to blame Facebook

In the end, it's easy to blame Facebook for all the privacy woes some users have experienced. But a significant portion of that blame should be placed on users. Facebook is running a business that relies on users sharing information with others. And although it attempts to maintain privacy as best as it can, it's up to the users to only divulge the information they're willing to share. It's also incumbent upon users to be educated about the risks that could potentially affect them if they don't know enough about social networks and privacy.

Yes, there are inherent risks to using social networks. But those risks are magnified if users aren't always thinking about their own privacy and how prepared they are for potential data breaches. When it comes to social networks, the onus is on us.

Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at

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