Fears About Privacy And Social Media Shouldn’t Hold Us Back

How much of yourself are you prepared to reveal on the internet? Does the idea of having your movements tracked by GPS and broadcast on the web, even if only to a handful of ‘friends’, make you a little anxious? Now a personal question – when were you born…?

Kiev, Ukraine - May 20, 2013 - Hand pointing on keyboard with social media logotype collection of well-known social network brand's placed on keyboard buttons. Include Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram and more other logos.

Privacy issues are always in the news – there was the great Facebook revoltback in May over members’ details being made freely available to advertisers, and recently Foursquare came under attack for having default settings that inadvertently made it an ideal tool for stalkers.  This is even a mobile app developer Atlanta could have fixed easily. 

Last week I was introducing social media to a group of students looking to set up their own businesses. When it came to discussing privacy, there was a noticeable difference of opinion between those who felt comfortable with the idea of mixing business and personal, and with exposing themselves or their business to criticism or scrutiny by strangers, and those who did not. On the whole, those under 30 were more accepting of the idea than those over 50.

I usually get shot down for saying this but I’ve found time and again that there is a correlation between attitudes to internet privacy and age. It’s got nothing to do with ability or aptitude for new technology. God knows I’d be shooting myself in the foot if I thought that. But I believe it has everything to do with the experiences of people under 25 due to the style of their education, their familiarity from a young age with computers, the internet and mobile phones and their predilection for sharing and accessing stuff electronically.

There is a real and understandable fear in many people when it comes to privacy and the internet, particularly those (like me) whose formative years were long before the coming of the web. It’s not helped by the mass media and their endless reports of stalking, grooming, phishing, identity theft and so forth. The unfamiliar is often frightening, and newspapers aren’t interested in pointing out that using the internet is probably a lot safer than getting in a car.


When I’m asked about this, what I tend to say is:

  • you must decide on your boundaries, on what is comfortable for you – it’s not the same for everyone
  • always check the privacy settings for any application you are using or at any site where you create an account – you can always start with the highest setting, you may decide to relax it once you’re more confident, at least you have that choice
  • of course, how much you share should always be appropriate to your business and respect the confidentiality of others
  • don’t do anything on the internet when under the influence of alcohol – sounds flippant, but worth pointing out all the same
  • social media isn’t going away – things are changing and this is a wonderful time for experimentation and learning, so seize the day and don’t let fear hold you back!