Passive social networking -- where others harm you

The privacy of those who shun social networking is still at risk from such sites -- from family and friends who indulge in the popular information sharing pastime, according to advice issued by the Privacy Commissioner's Office.

The privacy of those who shun social networking is still at risk from such sites -- from family and friends who indulge in the popular information sharing pastime, according to advice issued by the Privacy Commissioner's Office.

When users post a friend's photo or information about them on a social networking site, they are inadvertently taking the risk that the friend may "lose control over their personal information" posted on the social network.

Although some may consider such information leakage trivial, there have been cases where people have been turned down for jobs due to posts on social networks, or their homes have been severely damaged after parties advertised on such sites were gate crashed, the Commissioner warned.

The Commissioner's Web site urges users to consider that "different people have different comfort zones when it comes to their privacy".

After information has gone up on social networking sites, it stays online for "a long time" according to the Commissioner's FAQ. "You can deactivate your Facebook or MySpace accounts, but this may not mean that the information just disappears. It can continue to exist in archived or old versions of Web sites or in comments you've made on other people's Facebook or MySpace pages."

Prevention is better than cure, since the information may be floating around for years to come, the site warns: "Maybe it'd be a good idea to ask your friend before you post that information or photo."

If information about a person goes up on someone else's social networking site, which the subject of the post thinks is wrong or does not want online, the Privacy Commissioner's Office advises contacting the person who has uploaded the photo or information. If they refuse to remove the information, the next step is to contact the managers of the social networking site, which will generally have a grievance procedure, it adds.

Other measures exist for more serious infringements. "If you think you have been defamed online, you should consider getting legal advice," the site advises.

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