posted on Mar, 14 2015 @ 09:35 AM
According to website Statista, a staggering 1.79bn people worldwide are social network users. The figure is astounding, although not surprising. Many
of us use the social networks available online to connect with new people, to stay in touch with family and friends, and to promote and raise business
It is a modern day commodity, enabling us to reach people – and places – without restriction of time, travel and attendance. It is instant, easy
and fun, a new way of life, addictive to some, worrying to others.
When author Lori Andrews released her book, ‘I Know Who You Are And I Saw What You Did – The Death of Privacy,’ I was compelled to understand
why this writer was so nervous about the power of social networking, and I read her book with an open mind. The book covers many issues and aspects of
social media use – from hacking, to bullying, to invasion of privacy. It is a sobering read. Yet one issue that Lori Andrews explored caught my
attention more than any other. An online app is apparently being developed, according to Andrews, whereby one could view an online profile of any
individual that they come into contact with. For instance, the person who sits next to you on the train can turn on their app, and any information
that you have entered on social networking sites is condensed into a profile of who you are. Immediately your name, location, job and photos are in
the hands of the person next to you.
It is information you have entered online – willingly – so could such an online feature really be so bad? It is, of course, a matter of personal
opinion. If we, as individuals, are responsible about which information we publicly share online, then one would hope that such an app would be
meaningless – almost irrelevant. Yet one might argue that it somehow feels more invasive, to be profiled by strangers in public. That almost
“anonymous” feeling one gets from sitting behind a computer screen, suddenly disappears. It does seem to altar the dynamic of that information you
so freely share in cyberspace.
Could such an app ever be a reality? A quick search online reveals that in some ways, this technology already exists. FaceTag is an app that uses
facial recognition to search out the online profiles of people we snap pictures of, using mobile phones. Having a night out with friends? A quick snap
with your phone, and the person in the bar who catches your eye can be evaluated and learned about before the first “Hello.”
The issue of privacy has plagued users of social networks from the beginning. That we have to be careful, selective and self-aware when sharing
personal details online is a must. Though social networking and apps have mass appeal, are fun to use, and help us to engage with others on levels
never before possible, with this comes a responsibility – not only with the information we ourselves share, but so too, with the information of
others that many of us have at our fingertips.
Are we becoming privacy obsessed, and overly cautious? Would such a public profiling app make you uncomfortable, or is it possibly a means to staying
safe and identifying threats, as some have suggested? For instance, some who use online dating have suggested that such apps make meeting strangers
off the internet safer.
Whichever side one takes, social networking is a fascinating subject. It has shaped how the modern world shares, connects and promotes. It is easy,
accessible and dynamic. As with anything, such powerful resources can be abused, and it is this that gives many people pause for thought. Our privacy
is a precious thing.