There’s an app for that!

18 Oct

Do we now live in a society where it is deemed acceptable to stalk? With reality programmes hitting an all time high on our television screens and the use of social media and phone apps to track, when do we cross the line between thoughtless entertainment and fun to ominous tracking and surveillance?

In a Mississippi Court yesterday, a woman accused the social networking site Facebook of violating federal wiretap laws by tracking her online activity even after she had logged out of the site. Whilst Facebook categorically denied her case they did admit to ‘inadvertently’ tracking users through super cookies leading up to September, 2011. However, whether these files were stored or not remains to be confirmed.

We all know of how many recent changes that the site has undergone and the difficulty in keeping your privacy settings up to date, but did you even consider that you should not just be protecting yourself from other users of Facebook but from the site itself?  It is an open debate and
one full of intrigue. After all, why would one use a social networking site if it wasn’t to share information? Amongst friends may be, but in my opinion it is purely ignorant if you do not consider outsider involvement. Even the police are now charging people for Facebook activities, we only have to look at the August riots in the UK and circulating rumours that potential employers will often succumb to undertaking Facebook searches for potential employees to dwindle out the weaker candidates.

Third party applications endorsed by Facebook on the site are obviously a cause for concern. These collect information regarding your usage, although there is no clarification as to what this is to be used for.  I’d warn you to steer clear of these; unless of course seeing that video entitled ‘I can’t believe that Dad just walked in on his daughter…’ is entirely necessary.

It is not just Facebook that gives one cause for concern. Twitter, Google Plus and YouTube all carry with them potential security risks. For example, the average tweeter likes to tell others of their whereabouts or scheduled tasks but just beware, the ‘location tagging’ feature could be a potential stalking tool.

The advent of the ‘app world’ into Android, Blackberry and Apple smartphones has also led to the development of tracking applications which boast a unique surveillance style system such as ‘Find my Friends’, which, with the approval of your friends lets iPhone 4S users see where their friends (who must also have an iPhone 4S)are. These surveillance style apps have already led to well-known cases of abuse, such as that which appeared on MacRumors.com  of a husband discovering his wife was not where she said she was. Once again though, it is entirely up to the user to give this kind of access to their friends. This is then when it becomes open to abuse.

So, why is it okay for such applications and social mediums to exist? As aforementioned, reality programmes such as Big Brother which have huge viewing audiences seem to prove that the public believe such instances are acceptable. It also highlights that we want to see how other people live their lives. In a media saturated society, people (not all, but most) seem to be in a constant need to know what others are up to, more often than not to gossip, but in other instances for more ominous reasons. I want you all to remember this.

When you look around at the world, do you really see it in the same way that you used to? I never saw myself owning a Facebook account, but then I succumbed to that and then I added a Twitter account to my list of social mediums, to be honest I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because everyone else had one, maybe it’s because I wanted to be nosey but it was never anything more sinister than that.

If it comes to light that Facebook has been storing data from users once they have logged out of the site, I know for one I will have nothing to hide, I also know that it is not something I want them to be able to have. However, having been a Facebook user for many years now, I’m not sure I’d like to see it disappear from my life. It has almost become my venting tool, my way of being reminded of birthdays, my own gossip column, my status updates have even become a daily habit. Therefore my privacy settings are firmly secure to hide my profile from potential stalkers for now. As is every other one of my social networking accounts. After all, where else would I show off my ‘home-made cheesecake’
photographs without seeming peculiar?

I’ll continue doing that for now, until of course there’s an app invented for it, unless it already exists…?

 Sources: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/facebook-privacy-mississippi-woman-sues-facebook-tracked-online/story?id=14754964

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