Sharing or exposing information?

Mark Zuckerberg - Hero?

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Week 5.

Analyse critically the following statement by Mark Zuckerberg while comparing it to privacy issues raised by online social networking collaborative practices:

Mark Zuckerberg was extremely optimistic about the power of sharing our information in the video previously posted here, but my question is, who is empowered by the millions of people sharing their information online? Is it the people losing job opportunities because they have well-documented Saturday nights? Or is it the advertisers targeting every user because of their age and what they and their friends have “liked”?

The buzzwords of the video were sharing, privacy, information and control. Out of those buzzwords, privacy and control seem to be the most difficult to achieve. Danah Boyd’s work on the topic is interesting she says “When the default is hyper-public, individuals are not simply able to choose what they wish to expose – they have to choose what they wish to hide.” (2008:16). I’m an extremely private person on Facebook and agree with Boyd that we shouldn’t be made to feel unusual or wrong if we don’t want to tell our 400 “friends” the minute details of our lives – especially when those “friends” are increasingly including employers, professional contacts, parents, aunts and uncles and (in my case at least!) grandparents.

Education about privacy settings and what they mean is lacking. Most people don’t realise that the information they provide could be enough for someone to steal their identity and Mark Zuckerberg isn’t telling them. Boyd discusses exposure and invasion, two elements that are important in social convergence – basically what social networking online is. These elements are not mentioned at all in Zuckerberg’s video – he doesn’t want people thinking about their negative connotations.

Boyd makes a striking comparison in relation to Facebook and information “Facebook gives the ‘gift’ of infinite social information, but this can feel too much like the One Ring – precious upfront, but destructive long-term.” (2008:18) This is an interesting idea, that we could be destructed by sharing our information.

Increasingly, I’m wondering about information as a commodity. If anyone asked what commodity Mark Zuckerberg traded in, it would be information. He provides a massive service free worldwide (Except in China) which would be impossible without something in return. We give a bit of information, some more and some less, and he gives us a worldwide meeting place.

If we’re trading information with Mark Zuckerberg have we got what we bargained for? Are we empowered by sharing this information? My answer is, no. Are we any closer to solving the world’s problems or are we just buying Mark Zuckerberg’s next Pacific Island when we say something else an advertiser can use?? Well the world’s problems aren’t really going anywhere, and Zuckerberg might want to choose an island somewhere other than the Pacific, because Japan is dumping radioactive water there. Or maybe he thinks Facebook can fix that?


Boyd, D. ‘Facebook’s Privacy Trainwreck: Exposure, Invasion and Social Convergence’, Convergence: The International Journal into New Media Technologies 14.4 (2008): 13-20


One thought on “Sharing or exposing information?

  1. I agree. I don’t think people know what they’re getting themselves into when they sign up for Facebook. I don’t think we are really getting all that we bargained for especially those poor people who lose jobs, friends or family over something that is posted on their wall.
    It seems that when our entire private lives are on the Internet they are no longer private.

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