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09 January 2009 @ 09:04 pm

Facebook. Friendster. Myspace. The names of these social networking sites have become a household name among netizens worldwide. People use it to catch up with old friends, meet and interact with new friends online or simply as a way to pass time. However, what they fail to realise is that these social networking sites might not be as safe and secure as they seem. Privacy and confidentiality tread a thin line in these websites.

Although there have been setting of privacy levels by some networking websites such as Facebook to assure the confidentiality of the personal information of a user depending on his or her prefences. Many users are unaware of the fact that there are still methods and ways to retrieve certain information from these profiles. Thus, this has resulted in users openly posting all kinds of their personal information on these social networking sites, whether be it their birthdates, schools, e-mail addresses and even their phone numbers and hence, putting themselves at risk of being harassed online or harmed in real life. 

Personally, having commited some of the mistakes above myself while profiling in social networking sites, I think that the main reason why I did so was due to the lack of understanding towards the impact of revealing such personal details. In my opinion, youths should be educated on the way they set up their profiles in these social networking sites. Perhaps by doing so, this will enable them to be more guarded while using these sites and prevent the possible tragedies that might result because of the disclosing of one's personal details.

One example would be the case of
Allen Joplin who was murdered after he sent out a mass party invitation via Myspace to all his friends. He was shot dead by an uninvited guest who came to know of the party he was holding through the social networking site, Myspace.  Another thirteen year old guest at the party was also injured during the shooting and this shows the extent to what undesirable consequences might occur as a result of leaving too much personal information on a social interaction site. Allen probably had not realised that by posting party invitations to his friends and revealing his address online via Myspace, he had directly placed his guests and himself at risk. This is because some social networking sites  actually have a "News Feed"  feature which is constantly updated with the latest information about what changes have been made to a person's profile and these information is then sent out and made readily accessible to many people. Thus, this sometimes results in things getting out of hand, like having more people turn up for a party than expected.

Was it just a case of Allen being too naive to understand the dangers of being too open with personal details on the internet? Or was it an unfortunate incident that happened at the wrong place at the wrong time? To me, it will remain a mystery unsolved.

However, the thing that intrigues me the most is the reason why some users still openly divulge personal information on their profiles in social networking sites despite acknowledgement of the possible dangers that it can bring by doing so. Although there have been no definite reason as to why they do so yet, there have been a few plausible theories behind this behaviour and they are namely, the nonchalant attitude taken towards the dangers of the internet and the anonymity it brings due to the lack of physical interaction. These users tend to form the assumption of being safe and are thus, more daring to compromise on their privacy and sharing it with others through social networking websites.

Lastly, I shall end off with a quote from an interesting video regarding privacy being "killed" on social networking sites which I have attached below for everyone to check out if they are interested.

When questioned about the privacy of social networking sites:

"It is public. It is like leaving your diary lying on the park bench." - Passerby in video.

Think twice before giving out too much personal information on your profile in social networking sites for it might just cause you in more ways than you can ever imagine.

(Video is sourced from youtube; uploaded by user SwitchedShow. )

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