Pardon me…Your Wall Is Showing

Privacy in the digital age has always been a two way street. But if you’re on Facebook, you have new neighbors. Millions of them.

There is a hot debate right now about Facebook’s new privacy policy. On one hand, the added transparency should allow for relationships to develop and flourish in the digital age as our information is easier to access and navigate. But on the other hand, users lose the control over the context within which they do certain things. And by “certain things” I really mean “everything.” For example, let’s say I’m writing an article that requires research on the history of Greenpeace. Before the new privacy settings were in place, I could become a fan of that page without everyone in my network knowing. Perhaps I don’t care if that displays on my wall under the new privacy settings. But what if I do? What if I become a fan of the Fox News page? Do you know why? Are you sure?

Can you imagine more extreme versions of my example? I certainly can.

The delineation between what is or should be public and private was already an age old debate before the Internet age. However, now the burden of context seems to have been put squarely on the user. If one is to enjoy the freedom provided by a social networking site such as Facebook, one has to be willing to bear it all on one’s wall. Without the benefit of context or further conversation, one needs to be comfortable telling the world that you’re a Tiger Woods “fan.” Or a Sarah Palin “fan.” I am quite sure that added transparency will affect what I do. I’m just not completely sure it should.

This has some of the same ramifications for business – and more – as social networking through Facebook becomes just another tool for business communication. What does it say if a controversial figure is a fan of your Facebook page? Or vice-versa? Which groups are deemed “ok” or “not ok” and by whom? It’s easy to imagine scenarios that could paralyze a business just by attempting to think of all the ramifications of each (seemingly innocent) move on Facebook. And businesses will, no doubt, be concerned about the public implication of their employees’ Facebook activities. What does his or her activity say about the CEO? The Director of HR? Or anyone else?

So does this power play by Facebook make us more open and honest or more suspicious and guarded? I suppose we’ll have to see. In the mean time…mind your wall, people. You’re not paranoid if everyone really is watching you.

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Filed under Branding, Privacy, Social media & branding

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