Facebook is used by people all over the world, and is for a lot of people a part of their everyday life. But are people aware of the consequences of using the web- community? Is it really as private as people may think?
Text: Mona Byrkjedal
Facebook is a social utility created to connect and share with people in your life, it is stated on Facebook.com. The social-networking was created by Mark Zuckerberg in 2004. He was then attending Harvard University, and wanted to create an internet page where he and his common students could socialize and get to know each other. Zuckerberg succeeded and Facebook expanded.
In September 2006 people over 13 years old – all over the world could create a profile and use Facebook.
According to Wikipedia Facebook has 132 million active users in 2008 and is available in 90 countries all over the world. Although it is growing with 200 000 new users everyday, some it has been blocked in several countries including Syria and Iran. It has also been banned at many places of work to increase productivity.
- It helps me stay in contact with my friends, and stay updated on what’s going on in their lifes, Johanna Svenlin says. The 21-year old is originally from Stockholm, Sweden, but works in Oslo, Norway.
- It is cheaper for me to use Facebook, compared to calling all my friends, she adds.
Even though she states that it doesn’t affect her everyday-life, she admits that it may affect her working schedule:
- When I am not motivated to work, I check my Facebook – and it often leads to me working less, she humbles.
Svenlin forthright expresses that she considers the information posted on Facebook as public.
- If you don’t want anyone to access your information, don’t add it. The information is available for a lot of people.
Is Facebook a private utility or a public information channel?
Facebook has stated two basic principles to be aware of when publishing information or pictures (www.facebook.com/policy
1. You should have control over your personal information. It is further on explained that the users choose which information they want to publish, and that Facebook will help the users spreading the information to the users “friends”.
2. You should have access to the information others want to share.Facebook explains that a lot of information is accesable, and it may be necessary for the users to know what it is, and where it is.
The Norwegian Data Inspectorate (controlled by the Ministry of Government Administration and Reform) has their suggestions to what to be aware of, when using Facebook.
In addition it is stated that the users profiles contains information that may be interesting for stalkers, criminals and others who wants to find out more about one. This is considered dangerous by the Norwegian Data Inspectorate.
What is public and what is privacy? The German philosopher and sociologist Jurgen Habermas claims that the public sphere is “a network for communicating information and points of view”.
“Privacy is the ability of an individual or group to seclude themselves or information about themselves and thereby reveal themselves selectively”, due to Wikipedia.
- The media-expressions and definitions are so many and different, and it may seem like the public sphere now is to little, Tor Bang, who is an associate professor at the Department of communication, culture and languages at BI, the Norwegian school of management claims.
- Media institutions specialize on privacy; humans’ weaker points and failure may be as interesting as their triumphs, Bang says.
- But I do think Facebook is a good way to socialize, he adds.
It’s private, but Marit is careful
- I’m using Facebook several times, everyday. We use our computers in class at school, so it’s hard not to use Facebook, Marit Rudi Jörgensen says. Marit is a student at St. Svithun Upper Secondary School in Stavanger, Norway.
- It’s pastime, and a good way to stay in contact with my friends, the sixteen-year old adds.
Marit explains that she is observant and critical to the pictures and the information she broadcasts throughout Facebook. - I don’t add moot pictures of me or my friends, for instance.
- I can choose who I want to add, and I am able to block people I don’t want seeing my profile.
Although she means the information is private, and for her to control, she is aware of the possibilities of her information being misused.- Evaluating my use of Facebook makes me realize how much I actually use it, and how much information one is able to find there. I check my Facebook automatically, she concludes.
Information may be easy to access
- For some people it may be easier to communicate digitally, which may be positive for many. The biggest problem is when this type of communication is mistreated, and leads to bullying, or broadcasting of sensitive pictures and information, says Lisbeth Morlandstö, who is a lecturer in media at Bodö College University.
Lisbeth is sceptical:
- Many people experience the digital communication on Facebook as private, but may be available in different settings. If one posts personal information and pictures on Facebook, they can easily be accessed by other people than your “friends”. It is therefore important to think twice when something is posted, she adds.
Facebook also keeps the information and pictures the users post; this is not grounded, but explained: “Removed information may persist in backup copies for a reasonable period of time but will not be generally available to members of Facebook.”