Posts Tagged ‘Week 5

This post will draw upon lecture content as well as readings from Week 5. The question to be discussed is as follows: Analyse critically the following statement by Mark Zuckerberg while comparing it to privacy issues raised by online social networking collaborative practices.

“When people have more control over what they share, they are comfortable with sharing more. When people share more, the world becomes more open and connected. And in a more open world, many of the biggest problems we face together will become easier to solve.”

(Source: Extract from Mark Zuckerberg on Making Privacy Controls Simple video)

Firstly, let’s pick apart this little speech. “When people have more control over what they share, they are more comfortable with sharing more.” Really, Mr Zuckerberg? Really? Besides its obviously simplistic view and assumption of people’s actions, this is a contradictory sentence.

When people have more control over what they are sharing, i.e making use of the many, revamped privacy controls Facebook has come up with, there won’t be any conceivable reason as to why they would share more publicly.

Yes, in the simplest sense, they are sharing more, but all this information would be shrouded by privacy settings and thus be invisible to “the world” Zuckerberg mentions. So how then, is there any way the world can becomes open and connected when people are sharing more but hiding information?

It appears that this statement is empty of meaning, and use of words and phrases like “sharing”, “open”, “connected”, “we face together”, and “easier to solve” merely seek to convey lofty world visions which aim to distract from the real fact of the matter. That nothing online, and more specifically in Facebook, is private anymore.

In an article by Yoder (Business Insider), Zuckerberg’s statement can be interpreted to mean that since the societal norm these days is that of an “open and connected world”, everybody should subscribe to this school of thought. Hooray for Facebook spreading its digital archives wide open and spreading your information to every corner of the World Wide Web! Okay, I’m exaggerating but you see what I mean.

One particularly memorable bit of Yoder’s article was when he said “essentially, this means Facebook not only wants to know everything about you, and own that data, but to make it available to everybody” (Yoder, 2010).

In other words, Zuckerberg’s statement about how the world would open up via connections like Facebook and band together to work together on solving problems is just PR speak about how it’s inevitable that private information would get leaked out to numerous sellers of products/services, and I can’t do anything. The whole promotion about better privacy controls then seem to be a stalling mechanism, implemented in hopes that users get diverted from the issue of privacy and get off Facebook’s case.

Just by the sheer fact that this extract is from a video whereby Zuckerberg supposedly responses to users’ needs for privacy is strange. Seeing how the whole point of the main video was to explain how new privacy controls would better safeguard our information, what he says is plain ironic. While promoting stronger privacy controls, he goes on to say that an open world would be better since it allows us to solve more problems. Forgive me for being selfish, but I don’t think my personal information (which allow for bizarre sale pitches like “Weird Celebrity Dolls: It’s Britney, Bitch!”) would really make “many of the biggest problems we face together will become easier to solve”.

While I appreciate that Facebook is doing something, as compared to simply ignoring us, it really does need to work harder at convincing the cynical netizen.


Tubechop. 2011, ‘Extract form Mark Zuckerberg on Making Privacy Controls Simple’, Tubechop, viewed 25 April 2011.

Yoder, D. 2010, ’10 Reasons To Delete Your Facebook Account’, Business Insider, viewed 25 April 2011.

theofficialfacebook. 2010, ‘Mark Zuckerberg on Making Privacy Controls Simple’, Youtube, viewed 25 April 2011.


In the lecture this week (Week 5), the topic of online privacy came up. According to the lecture as well as the readings, information is even more easily available to anyone with a computer and an Internet connection than ever (Solove, 2007). The benefits are obvious. As Solove says in his book, “We can communicate and share ideas in unprecedented ways. These developments are revolutionizing our self-expression and freedom” (Solove, 2007). With the Internet, people can quickly search for information regarding for example, a certain company (whether it is credible), a certain person offering a product or service (how do other purchasers rate the product/service), or even look up long-lost friends or family members via various avenues like blogs. One of the most commonly utilised approach is online social networking sites like Facebook.

Consider the example of China which had 457 million Internet users at the end of 2010, compared to only 308 million in USA (Bryan, 2011). This number according to a 2009 report by the China Internet Network Information Centre (CNNIC) is only 29% of the total Chinese population, which means that numbers of Internet users will be expected to steadily rise at an exponential rate (CNNIC, 2009). According to Shankar, the Internet in China has helped 46 million people with their education, 35 million with security purposes, 15 million with job hunting and 14 million with travel plans (Shankar, 2010). The Internet has also resulted in the birth of informant websites set up by the governement for citizens to report corruption (Shankar, 2010).

This has also facilitated the rise of citizen watchdogs, or ‘flesh searches’. Netizens on popular BBS forums (Bulletin Board Systems) and social networking websites have all conducted searches for people (and their personal details) who have become popular on the Internet for whatever reasons. Examples range from corrupt/badly behaving government officials who are not punished for their misdeeds, mysterious people acting strangely in public, controversial blog posts, and so on. Upon finding the person’s personal details which include full name, address, and contact numbers, depending on the person’s behaviour, netizens in the area would proceed to either praise or harass the person in the spotlight. While this practice has had good results (e.g. the government pressured into taking appropriate actions against its offending staff member), netizens who reveal the wrong information i.e. personal details of an innocent person can cause much trouble for the person targeted.

However, as illustrated in the examples above, there are downfalls to this ease of information gathering. For one, a great amount of digital paper trail is generated. Personal information, generated information, and even false information will be preserved forever on the Internet, and is easily accessed at the click of a mouse.

This brings us to the relatively new phenomenon of employers Googling prospective job applicants. The practice of making use of the Internet to screen potential employees ensure the company that the person they are considering is suitable for the job and the corporate image portrayed by the firm. Conversely, many job hunters also make use of the Internet to find out more about a firm with 60% using social media to find out the company culture. As the two articles attached show, the vast amount of information out there can be a double-edged sword.

Employees using Social Media from TODAYOnline:



SINGAPORE – A survey by recruitment firm, Randstad, has found that social media plays an influential role in the workplace and job search environment.

According to the Randstad Workmonitor, when preparing for an interview, 56 per cent of employees would use social media to find out more about an employer.

Some 60 per cent would use social media to find out more about a potential employer’s working culture from comments made by employees, and more than half (60 per cent) would not apply to an organisation if negative things were being said about the employer on social media.

When asked if employees take into account that their personal profiles can be viewed by their employers, 67 per cent said yes.

About half (48 per cent) said their employers provided guidelines for using social media representation with regard to work-related content and engagement.

Randstad regional director, Singapore and Malaysia, Ms Karin Clarke, said it is not surprising that employers are proactively providing their staff with social media guidelines, as social media is a double-edged sword for organisations.

While it provides an opportunity to attract quality candidates, sensitive and negative content can go viral very quickly and out of an organisation’s control, potentially causing serious harm to a company’s reputation.

The Randstad Global Workmonitor also revealed that Singapore was in the bottom three of Asia-Pacific countries surveyed when it came to employee satisfaction.

Employees in China and Japan are the least satisfied. The most satisfied employees in Asia Pacific are in India, (80 per cent), New Zealand (68 per cent) and Australia (67 per cent).

Employers using Social Media: 2011 article on the San Diego Union-Tribune

Schools are now also adopting this practice of checking up on hopeful candidates for acceptance. While the reason for rejecting some applicants is due to their Facebook accounts, schools are saying that the lack of knowledge about privacy settings, not so much the unbefitting behaviour and lives of these applicants is the real rationale for the students’ rejection. In the case of one American student, his Facebook profile was open to the public which led to discovery of a note he posted with threatening overtones. This mistake cost him his graduation, from which he was only a month away from.

Pam Procter a college admissions expert advises, “”Get rid of any photos, messages, pagers or ‘Likes’ that may reflect badly on you,”.

As quoted in the article, students hoping to enter disciplines such as business, law or medicine need to make sure that their online social profiles are presented in the best possible light. “According to, 9 percent of business schools, 15 percent of law schools and 14 percent of medical schools admission officers reported looking at applicants’ social media profiles during the application process” (Lenz, 2011).

Examples of students being subjected to disciplinary action, or even expulsion have been as common as employees being fired over careless blog posts or online social media content. With cases like employees being fired because his or her employers saw disparaging comments about the company or management on personal blogs or Facebook accounts, to students being expelled for inappropriate behaviour, the danger of the Internet is that “in this day and age, there’s no privacy” (Solove, 2007).

What struck me about this lecture and all the cases outlined is that I am leaving a trail of information about myself, accessible to anyone, anytime and I can’t do anything about it without being equipped with more than the rudimentary computing skills I possess.

The idea of someone who can commit identity theft, the first case that comes to mind so easily makes me think twice about revealing information, however basic it might be online.

The second worrying thing is that my future schools or employers can pull up information about me in an instant, and the information that they pull up could be from anytime in my life. While searches would most likely turn up the most recent news about me i.e. when I’ve gotten my act together and started being responsible, data that I could have foolishly posted online when I was young and stupid would most likely also come up. The problem I face is being unable to remember every single thing I did on the Internet from a decade ago when I first started using this marvelous, but frightening invention.

Thirdly, the faint (in my case) possibility that someone would make use of my information or wrongly accuse me of some wrongdoing and disseminate my personal information all over the World Wide Web is a daunting thought. What’s been sent out can never be taken back, as some people have found out (mixing private correspondance with corporate ones and sending personal messages out to the whole department, or even the region, in the case of one Singapore Health Promotion Board staffer sending an explicit tweet to all and sundry following the governmental institution’s Twitter feed).

Critics of the Internet have said that it promotes excessive narcissism and frivolous discussions, while supporters argue that freedom of speech allows whoever to do whatever, and if endless self-promotion and adoration is what rocks your boat, so be it. I suppose the lure of posting information about yourself, every moment of your day, personal experiences, rants, and so on is very strong. Having people whom you know as well as don’t know seeing your ‘works’, empathising with you, and commenting on your posts seems to be very attractive, and in a way, increases your importance in the world. However, being a media student (and knowing very well of how fast information can be spread), attending net communications, and also being an all-round paranoid person, I am really more inclined to take the former side. Everything personal will be made private, no matter how barren my blog, Facebook, Twitter, and god knows what else is.

Hence, while the Internet is certainly a boon to everyone who can access it, it remains a bane as well.


Bryan, W. 2011, ‘Chinese Internet Use Surges Past 450 Million People In 2010’, National Public Radio, viewed 22 April 2011.

CCNIC. 2009, ‘Translation of The 23rd CNNIC Report – Statistical Survey Report on Internet Development in China’, CCNIC, viewed 22 April 2011.

Chinapet. 2011, ‘. . . . . Xidan girls event. . . . Recent hot hot’, viewed 22 April 2011.

Hopwood, R. 2011, ‘Using online connections to find jobs, workers’, The San Diego Union-Tribune: Technology and Telecom, viewed 22 April 2011.

Lenz, S. 2011, ‘Students applying to college may want to check out their Facebook page first’, Deseret News, viewed 22 April 2011.

Matyszczyk, C. 2011. ‘Facebook placenta pose gets student expelled’, CNET, viewed 22 April 2011.

Netease. 2011, ‘Topic: Men’s 11-year-old girl claiming to be obscene, “the senior officials to Beijing” (video)’, Netease, viewed 22 April 2011.

Sarrio, J. 2010, ‘Tennessee teen expelled for Facebook posting’, USA Today, viewed 22 April 2011.

Shankar, B. 2010, ‘Key facts about China’s internet usage’, International Business Times, viewed 22 April 2011.

Solove, DJ. 2007, ‘How the Free Flow of information Liberates and Constrains Us’, Future of Reputation: Gossips, Rumour, and Privacy on the Internet, New Haven: Yale University Press, New York, USA. pp. 17 – 49.

Tianya. 2011, ‘『End of the World Zatan 』is black on the the” Zhejiang University Women, “rave-known professor of Zhejiang University”‘, viewed 22 April 2011.

The Boston Channel. 2011, ‘Work Talk On Facebook Might Get You Fired: Employees Can Complain About Workplace, Within Limits’, The Boston Channel, viewed 22 April 2011.

TODAYOnline. 2011.

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