, Newburyport, MA


January 30, 2013

Privacy is a sham in online world


O’Meara’s opinion piece on the matter, published in the Los Angeles Times this weekend, is insightful and worthy of a read by anyone who uses social media. She points out how social media’s definition of a “friend” is far broader than that of the off-line world. Like many Facebookers, she amassed a mountain of social media friends. She set her privacy settings quite tight, but the end result was still loose enough to let in people whom she never would have allowed so close in person.

A fellow graduate of her high school who had been stalking her through Facebook for years, used pictures of her without her knowledge to create Kekua. He has since called her and apologized, but as O’Meara points out, he can’t undo what has been done.

O’Meara has closed out all her social media accounts. She’s off the grid, and humiliated.

“ ... I still can’t quite believe it all happened. But looking back on it now, there are things I wish I’d done differently, even though the precautions I took exceeded those of many Facebook users,” O’Meara wrote earlier this week.

“Eventually, I’ll go back to using social media. But I’ll take an even more cautious approach. I’ll have a new definition of who I agree to ‘friend,’ and it will be much closer to the old definition of friendship. My friends will be those I actually know and trust. If someone sends me a ‘friend’ request, I will be as discerning as I am in choosing who I include in my off-line life.”

Facebook users sign away many rights to privacy when they agree to post on the site. Last week, millions of people were alerted that their images, stripped from their “personal” page, were used by Facebook to shill various commercial products. Small financial settlements were offered for this incursion into privacy.

Millions of us have chosen to use Facebook and other social media to publicly post information about our private lives. Like Diane Meara, we do so at our own peril.

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