How private should your social network be?

I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while and a friend’s Facebook post – about considering closing his Facebook account – finally prompted me.

I have a simple philosophy when it comes to what I post online:

If you wouldn’t want your mother, neighbor, priest, or a random guy on the street to find out about it, DON’T put it online.

We’re not just talking about Facebook here, but anything where your data is stored somewhere other than YOUR computer. Even if the company is as careful with your data as they can possibly be and their privacy policies are the best you’ve ever seen and they promise to never share anything with anyone, accidents and hacking do happen. If you hesitate to post it, why risk it? We’ve fallen into a trap of thinking that just because “I clicked a button that says my stuff is ‘private'” that we think there’s NO WAY that anyone can find out. Wakeup call!

If you have something that fits the description above, there are better (and more personal) ways to get that information to the intended recipients.  In most cases, I’d be willing to bet that those intended recipients are not the 500+ people who are your “friends” on Facebook.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a fan of the fact that our information is analyzed, trades, and sold for various purposes (if you think this doesn’t happen, wake up), but at the same time, I realize that Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and all of the others are businesses and exist to make money.  If I’m not paying them for the service, how are they getting a paycheck?

What do you think?  Should we expect total privacy in our social networks?  Or should we restrict ourselves in what we post?

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