The illusion of privacy

Late last week, Jenna Wortham wrote a post on the New York Times’ Bits blog entitled Digital Diary: Instagram and the Internet’s ‘Secret’ Places.

Personally, I prefer the post’s URL slug – “digital-diary-instagram-and-the-illusion-of-privacy.” I wish those words appeared more prominently in the post. Unfortunately, she seems to be referring to that illusion as a good thing. I tend take a much more cautious approach.

Wortham asserts that Instagram was “an outlet for content that increasingly does not feel suited for Facebook or Twitter, which now feel like the most public of all of our online hubs.” Thankfully, she does point out that Instagram’s privacy settings are no more private than any other social network. However, I feel that operating under this false sense of “security through ‘obscurity'” can only lend itself to posting things in an online venue with little or no thought put into it.

“Obscurity” in this sense also feels like a falsity. Instagram, while currently only having 40 million users to Facebook’s 800 million, was certainly not a service used by only a handful of people. Wortham mentions that the service is only available to iPhone and (only recently) Android users. However, when you consider that more smartphones shipped in 2011 than PCs, you start to realize that “mobile-only” does not mean “exclusivity” in any way.

I’ll re-assert my standing opinion about your data and social networks:

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.

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