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Jay B

Page history last edited by Jay Barton 9 years ago

Privacy and Social Networking:

Managing Your Personal Information

By Joseph J. Barton




     Doing business and pleasure on the Internet today is a lot like walking around with a billboard hanging on your neck. What are you putting on your billboard for all to see? Is there so much information on it that it weighs you down, maybe even begins to choke you? I am guilty of it, the above is my profile picture on Facebook, and even it alone is pretty telling. With a visit to the site as someone I haven’t yet “friended”, you’d find it there, alongside information such as I am currently studying at San Jose State. Most of us would never give out our personal information to a stranger on the street. However, according to Riva Richmond (2011) of the New York Times, such information as your place of birth, birthday, home value, marital status, and even a picture of your front door are available to anyone ready to pony-up ($13.95 for a three month subscription) for the service Spokeo.com provides. All someone needs is your name.


     This reality may seem shocking to some, but not to those of us who’ve looked at the information available about ourselves online using only Google, Facebook and sites such as Spokeo’s. So, in a world of readily available information, what are some of today’s privacy concerns and how can we manage them to minimize the risks associated with sharing information online? To answer this question, I will first define some relevant terms, illustrate some issues facing individuals and business alike, and then propose some solutions to allow us to better manage our private information.





     According to Petrino (2002), privacy management is how people negotiate openness and privacy of communicated information. Coming from the socio-cultural tradition, it focuses on how people in relationships manage boundaries which separate public information from private. Communication privacy management theory seeks to explain what revealing information we decide to keep concealed versus what we choose to share.    



                                                                                                            (Adams, 2011) 


     Cookies give websites the ability to save information on their visitors. By keeping and updating this information over time and by adding this information with cookies from other websites, it is easy to develop an accurate profile of a person’s online activity (Kesan & Shah, 2009). Simply put, Internet cookies allow a web site you’ve visited to basically follow you around as you visit other sites.


     Curtis Silver (2010), in a Wired.com article, says data is anything you put in the computer that goes to the Internet and either gets lost or sold. He goes on to ask exactly what private or personal data is on the Internet answering “not a damn thing.”


     One zettabyte is equal to one trillion gigabytes of information, or the equivalent of 250 billion DVD’s (Ford, 2011).



Privacy Concerns for Individuals


            In a webinar by Purchell and Salmond (2011) detailing the findings of a recent Pew study, they indicate that 73% of teens, 82% of young adults, and 64% of adults forty and up use social networking sites such as Facebook. Fogel and Nehmad (2009) accurately describe the findings of their research done on 205 inner city college students. They found that more than three quarters of surveyed students had a Facebook account, while a third owned sites elsewhere. Only 16% of the participants expressed the highest privacy concerns for a stranger knowing their schedule and where they lived, yet 22% of those students still provided their home address and 40% provided their schedule of classes (Fogel, 2009). That adds up to a lot of people throwing caution to the wind and offering up piles of data whether or not they’re actually concerned about their own privacy, and most seemingly aren’t.


     Steve Lohr (2010) mentions in a New York Times article that two researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, using data collected from social networking sites, had accurately predicted the full, nine digit Social Security numbers for 8.5% of people born in the United States between 1989 and 2003. That’s nearly five million people! Also reported by Lohr, in a class project at M.I.T. two students analyzed 4000 Facebook pages and they were able to predict with 78% accuracy whether or not each page belonged to a gay individual. 



                                                                                              (Logos-s-collection.blogspot.com, 2011) 


     In Fogel’s findings, he reports the average number of “friends” on profiles was 239 (2009). This means that even if your Facebook privacy settings have been changed from the default which allows anyone to view your page to the “friends of friends” setting, an average of 57,121 (239 x 239) individuals have access to your data. This clearly indicates the need for individuals to be careful who they “Add as Friend.” 


     Furthermore, since the advent of Internet “cookies”, sites have been able to trace our patterns of online use. Kesan and Shah (2009) state “legal scholars use cookies as an example of how privacy can be affected by the design of communication technology” (p.317).  Now, with the development of open-graph technology, Facebook’s ever-popular “like” button has changed traceability in the favor of corporate marketing forever. Clicking the wrong “like” button on your inappropriate buddy’s comments could keep you from a job someday. It’s scary to think about, but a reality we all live today.



Privacy Concerns for Business


             In an article in The Economist, Ford (2011) writes that during February of this year Hewlett-Packard introduced its new tablet computer, which it hopes will compete with Apple’s iPad. The event was far less exciting than it may have been, thanks to the leaking of the design in January. He goes on to remind us that other technology companies have suffered from similar information leaks lately. Recently Dell’s timetable for bringing tablets to market appeared earlier than they hoped on a tech-news website. The schedule for new products from NVIDIA, which makes graphics chips, also seeped out. He also recounts instances of corporate privacy leaks from companies like Coca-Cola, Facebook, Renault and AOL. He also discusses WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and his claims of a scandal involving an American bank CEO. This sent big banks such as Bank of America scrambling for weeks. As concerns over information leaks grow, he offers a graph (below) which helps illustrate the projected growth rate for zettabytes of information transferred online (2011).    



                                                                                                                 (Ford, 2011)


            Hashimoto, Immamura, Kitagata, Osawa and Shiratori (2010) propose a privacy management architecture to protect Internet users from unnecessary leakage of private information and attempt to provide a reliable scheme for privacy management. This architecture is centered around the idea of a “web service broker”, an indepentant entity that would exist between the user/client and the web service providers requiring any private information. I think this is simply a crazy idea which would only lead to the further selling or leaking of private information. A middle man for private information exchange is the best we can do, really?



Possible Solutions


            The inherent problem is expectations. People, and corporations, expect their data to remain private. This expectation is usually set at some point by the site people are entering their data into. Perhaps it’s a site like Linkedin, where the expectation is transparency. The problem is no one reads the terms of service contracts. When you click the box to continue, you are agreeing to pages of legalese that state you don’t have any personal or private data on the site because they own it all (Silver, 2011).


            Privacy communities are the central element of an article by Kernchen, Kolter and Pernul (2010). They indicate there are open web and Wiki-like organized privacy communities available online. They enable users to collaboratively exchange privacy-relevant information, ratings, experiences and opinions about service providers. This information would include, for instance, the required amount of personal data for the service as well as third parties the provider shares personal data with. Collaborative privacy communities are valuable data sources and facilitate a form of provider-independent privacy protection (Kernchen, 2010).


            Richmond advises that if an individual is worried, the best way to find out what information is available about you online is to search for it yourself. To manage your own privacy, the obvious place to start is with the search engines like Google and Bing that someone else would be likely to go. She said to run keyword searches of your name, addresses and phone numbers to see what turns up. There are companies willing to do the work for you, such as the privacy software start-up company Abine, who charge $99 a year for quarterly reports detailing the information available about you online (2011).


     The most important thing to remember is simply to control what you choose to share with the world. Be mindful that future employers, professors and parents are able to draw conclusions based on the way you present yourself online. The following video from Brandon Roudebush (2009) describes this best:






            We are sharing more and more information over the Internet every day. Most of us are uploading tons of dangerous data into social networking sites such as Facebook, which invites intrusion. Internet cookies are tracking our every online move, yet even the corporations who collect that data are facing greater and greater risks of information leakages. There are many possible solutions to this social problem, such as private services, collaborative privacy communities, and even web service brokers. However, the best thing you can do is to stay mindful of what you put online. If you adjust your expectations and expect the transparency of everything you do online, it makes it much easier to watch what you do and say to the entire world. Remember the billboard…and don’t let it strangle you.



Scholarly Sources


Fogel, J., & Nehmad, E. (2009). Internet social network communities: Risk taking, trust and privacy concerns. Computers in Human Behavior 25(1). 153-160. DOI:10.1016/j.chb.2008.08.006


Hashimoto, K., Imamura, S., Kitagata, G., Osawa, Y., Shiratori, N., & Takeda, A. (2010). A proposal of privacy management architecture. Applications and the Internet (SAINT), 2010 10th IEEE/ISPJ International Symposium on 19-23, July.161-164.

DOI: 10.1109/SAINT.2010.74


Kernchen, T., Kolter, J., & Pernal, G. (2010). Challenges for security, privacy and trust: Collaborative privacy management. Computers and Security, 29. 580-591.

DOI: 10.1016/j.cose.2009.12.007  


Kesan, J. P. & Shah, R. C. (2009). Recipes for cookies: How institutions shape communication technologies. New Media Society 11: 315.

DOI: 10.1177/1461444808101614



Other Sources


Ford, J. (2011, April 6). The leaky corporation. The Economist (from the February 24 print ed.). Retrieved from:                        http://www.economist.com/node/18226961?story_id=18226961


Lohr, S. (2010). How privacy vanishes online. New York Times March 17. Retrieved from: 



Richmond, R. (2011). How to fix (or kill) web data about you. New York Times April 13. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/14/technology/personaltech/14basics.html?_r=1&ref=privacy


Silver, C. (2010). The Facebook privacy war: What is personal data? Wired.com May 7, 2010. Retrieved from:





Pew Study


Purchell Ph.D., K., & Salmond, K. (2011, February 9). Trends in teen communication and social media use: What’s really going on here? Retrieved from: http://www.pewinternet.org/~/media//Files/Presentations/2011/Feb/Pew%20Internet_Girl%20Scout%20Webinar%20PDF.pdf 






Adams, E. (2011). A security innovation blog covering software engineering, cyber security, and application risk management. Application and cyber security blog

March 15. Retrieved from:                             



Choose your privacy settings (2011). Facebook. Retrieved from:                                                       



Logo-s-collection.blogspot.com (2011). Facebook privacy logo. Retrieved from:                                                                          



Petronio, S. (2002). Boundaries of Privacy: Dialectics of disclosure. Albany: SUNY Press.  Retrieved from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communication_privacy_management_theory


Roudebush, B. (2009). Social Networking Privacy. Retrieved from:                                   









Comments (35)

dbooth said

at 10:08 pm on Apr 20, 2011

Jay you are a scholar and a gentleman. Loved the comment on our page. Jennifer was the one who set up that horizontal line on our page and she says when you're in edit mode go to "insert" and there should be a link for "horiztonal line" .... hopefully that works! Love the video, those British have a goofy sense of humor.

Aubrey Lee said

at 2:10 am on Apr 21, 2011

Jay, just looked at your page and watched the video... I am not sure I understand it but those British kids still made me laugh. Also, your comments on the other students pages are all so sincere... I enjoy that you take the time to really look and say what you feel about everyones work!!

jt_thizzle@... said

at 8:41 am on Apr 21, 2011

This was my initial idea for stating my research. I decided to change my minde because I felt more passionate about my new topic. Good job on the wiki, i think it can be cleaned up a bit though!

Juleane said

at 9:33 am on Apr 21, 2011

VERY CLEAN, CLEAR, AND CONCISE! Everything is well put together and thought out! On top of your game!!!

uismiguel@... said

at 10:40 am on Apr 21, 2011

It seems that you have thought of everything before you put the information into the wiki page, good job Jay. So far, things are looking favorable for the majority of us..

Jenna Saenz said

at 5:32 pm on Apr 26, 2011

Jay, thank you for the comment on mine and Justine's wiki page! Looking out for your fellow classmates is super nice! I love the video with those british boys!! Funny! Great job so far!

gre_89@hotmail.it said

at 11:47 am on Apr 27, 2011

Lena, good job! This topic is really interesting! I use Skype every day to speak with my family and friends in Italy. It is so useful.

gre_89@hotmail.it said

at 11:51 am on Apr 27, 2011

Ohhh! Jay I'm sorry! I copied the wrong comment! - I did not mean it! :( Here's my comment for you: Your topic is a serious issue. There is no doubt that through social networking there is the risk of revealing private information. I found the information about Spokeo.com both interesting and a little scary. I do not understand how it works, but it is almost unbelievable how much information can be found about someone.

Daniel Preston said

at 8:01 pm on Apr 27, 2011

Your videos have lots of great information. Keep up the good work

uismiguel@... said

at 11:22 am on Apr 28, 2011

You did a great job, and i knew you would do so because you had a good topic and developed well too.

victorngo85@... said

at 2:00 pm on Apr 28, 2011

Hi Jay,

You did a really good job on your wiki page. Your topic looks very interesting.

jt_thizzle@... said

at 3:09 pm on Apr 28, 2011

Keep up the good work Jay, I know your going to do well on your presentation!

jt_thizzle@... said

at 12:32 pm on May 16, 2011

Jay your presentation was awesome! very impressive work and research. i like how you took this topic and turned it into something worth researching. I think it is very interesting that a lot of underage people are on Facebook! we really need to ensure that security measures are in place to avoid conflict online and F2F. You really expressed how important it is to keep most of our information private online. Anyone could gain access to our lives based upon what we put up online! very dangerous. I myself use Facebook to stay in contact with friends, but i try to keep my personal life off my page! lol Good job though man!

kyleportal@... said

at 3:46 pm on Apr 28, 2011

Jay this came out incredibly well. I am excited to see your presentation. On that note, good work on this WIKISAUCE!

Mark Francis said

at 3:47 pm on Apr 28, 2011

Jay, nice work! I like how you didnt just do a simple topic and actually dug deep in your research...looks good man, and yeah by the way Kyle did finally crack me to work with him. Haha. But he turned out okay lol :)

Aubrey Lee said

at 5:09 pm on Apr 28, 2011

Jay, very impressive! I really like that you did your page on an issue that is relevant to all of us, whether we are on social networking sites or not. Definitely an eye opener for me haha. I should probably take down my a lot of my personal info... even tho its probably already in the system... :) Looks awesome though, good job!

Justine Cranford said

at 10:39 pm on Apr 28, 2011

Wow great job. I love the picture in the beginning looks very nice and you did a great job on organization I can't wait to see in class.

Justine Cranford said

at 11:12 am on May 12, 2011

Hey Jay, great job. I think you did very well presenting your wiki and I felt I learned a lot. I enjoyed your personal examples and stories you really kept me interested. I appreciate your comments you made on my wiki, but once again great work. :)

Bobby Menbari said

at 11:04 pm on Apr 28, 2011

Looks very in depth Jay...I wouldn't have expected anything less. Great job!

Nicole Givens said

at 11:36 pm on Apr 28, 2011

Thanks for the comment Jay. I like your topic as well and I think you did an excellent job organizing your page and finding interesting videos. I'm looking forward to hearing your final presentation. Great Job!

dbooth said

at 12:10 am on Apr 29, 2011

Jay B- the man with the plan. Very very good project. I can tell you put a lot of time and research into this. As with everything you do, you gave it your full commitment and energy. Thanks for all the positive feedback on my page as well!

reilingss2b7@... said

at 6:58 pm on May 2, 2011

very good reasearch jay, good use of media and pictures! well done!

Lena Zubaid said

at 9:47 pm on May 2, 2011

First of all, I would like to say I liked how you broke down your sections into definitions and solutions, reminds me of another class we are taking. I love all the information you found about your topic, shows all the research you have done. I like how your topic is not something that we use like YouTube or Netflix, but it is a general topic about privacy and social networking. I think that you did a good job of including information that is complex but is also understandable. You did a good job on this project, very clear and clean!

dbooth said

at 11:50 am on May 3, 2011

Jay B, sweet presentation today. You did a really good job explaining the background information of your topic and online privacy. I was always a private person, so I totally related to your feelings about it. Once I took the class, and around that time of the facebook article my privacy awareness was turbo-heightened. In a fit of rage about the escalating gas prices I posted up a tweet about my feelings towards the big oil companies. Needless to say that little bird came in my head saying "remember what you learned in class Derek, you may regret this at a job later". I ended up deleting the tweet within a few minutes.

ericadeguzman@yahoo.com said

at 6:36 pm on May 3, 2011

Great Presentation today Jay! You really did set some high standards. And I’m really glad you got the feedback/reaction you were looking for when you tested out your Wiki on your friend Kim (I think that’s her name! ;) ) I especially appreciated the definitions section of your page. I’ve heard the term “cookie” thrown around here and there, but never really knew it’s meaning. I was surprised to find that “cookies” give websites the ability to save info on their users. Interesting. Great choice of media as well.. very to the point and informational. If I wasn’t private enough on my social networking sites I’ll definitely be more careful now.

Aubrey Lee said

at 1:00 pm on May 4, 2011

To add to my previous comment, I just want to say again that I love your topic. Your presentation on Tuesday was awesome and I definitely cant top that. haha But really, your Wiki really made me think about what kind of stuff I am putting out there for any one to see. And also, the fact that people born before 1988 or whatever year, have enough information out there for anyone to find out their social security number. SCARY STUFF. But i am afraid now that I am put so much information out there that I cannot take back anything which is an ever scarier thought. Again, loved your Wiki Jay! Good job :)

uismiguel@... said

at 6:36 pm on May 8, 2011

I missed you presentation, but i heard you saying about how much involved we are in the internet whether we want or not. I think that the most the internet evolves, the more we are going to be involved in it for sure... Great job!

Serena Sharma said

at 1:36 pm on May 9, 2011

Your presentation was done really well today! I have to admit I did not really think to much of it to post on my facebook as my status that i will be out of town for the weekend and come home to see my house has gotten robbed. It is scary to know that all one has to do is type a few things about someone and here pops up their home address or even social security number and who knows what else. Also how some companies now start looking up applicants facebook’s to see if they are an appropriate fit for the position.

Bobby Menbari said

at 4:40 pm on May 9, 2011

Great job on the presentation Jay...your examples really painted an accurate picture of people's habits online. I have always been more reserved with what I disclose online...but did not realize what can be made available to people by paying a fee. Its interesting to put our current communication avenues in perspective as compared to how we interacted with one another in the pre-internet age. Imagine if we were to go around telling all of our neighbors that we are leaving for the weekend, while also handing out information about where exactly we live. Most people would not feel comfortable sharing this information, so why does a medium such as facebook change that perspective? Just as you spoke about, people must be aware that they shouldn't share anything online that they wouldn't tell to a complete stranger...because for a nominal fee, disclosed information...even privately...can be uncovered and exploited.

ronnie hansen said

at 6:58 pm on May 10, 2011

JAY, great subject and good insights. To start, I want to say I don’t have a FB, and your wiki reasons are a big reason. I am a very private person so I don’t like to put my business out there, even if it is just for my “friends”. So I liked what you had to say about the privacy factor and people need to be careful on what writing and putting online. I know that online is forever, so when people put their info. Online it can always be traced. And the idea of people looking at your personal info without personally knowing you is just a bit crepy.

ronnie hansen said

at 6:58 pm on May 10, 2011

Great presentation as well..well spoken..well delivered. Nicely done

Jay Barton said

at 9:31 am on May 11, 2011

Thanks to all you for the positive feedback. Glad to help put things into perspective, that was kinda my motive. The funny BBC video got itself yanked from Youtube for some sort of violation of the Youtuve terms of service (isn't that ironic, they don't read the ToS either!), so its gone :-( I hope most of you saw it (and understood those accents) before it got pulled, it certainly was my page's humor piece. It wasn't like it competed with the axe video or especially Serena's 'Dick-in-a-Box' vid, but I miss it nonetheless.
All the presentations have been great to watch, I've learned alot and would like to thank you all. I love Comm majors presentations, we rock! Great semester everyone, have a great summer!

gre_89@hotmail.it said

at 11:20 pm on May 11, 2011

Jay, your topic is really current. Social networks have given us the possibility to interact with people with no regard to time and space. And I think it is great, while I am here I can talk and share pictures with my family and friends! Although you’re right in highlighting the lack of attention to issues related to security and privacy. Also, many people are not aware of it. In fact, they easily release personal information on Facebook for example, and consequently it is often easy to find others’ personal information. As is suggested in one of the articles you mentioned, I tried to find information about me online, through Google. I ran a search with my name, and I found some of my pictures! I also found some pictures of my family! Unbelievable that there are companies doing this as work, but I think with the passage of time, they will always have more work!

sekashiwa@gmail.com said

at 12:09 am on May 12, 2011

Hey Jay, your wiki was great! It was really thorough and it was an extremely relevant part of our internet communications class. I think that people who grow up with the internet understand from a young age that privacy is important. When I first started myspace profiles and email accounts, I was warned of predators and was told to never put my address or phone number. I didn't know about how easy it was to find social security numbers which definitely was a terrifying thought. I have tried to google my name and when I first did it like 5 years ago for some scary reason my birth certificate from Texas was there. I was pretty freaked out but I checked later and found it was taken down. Other than that I haven't done anything interesting enough online to google other than my Facebook page and a couple sports records from high school.

Juleane said

at 10:19 pm on May 12, 2011

Well done your presentation is very thorough and has a lot of information and resources to give! I think that many people still don't know how easily dangerous the internet is. The reason why we love it is the exact reason why we hate it. We've created a monster! It's open to anyone and everyone and anyone and everyone can do anything and everything they want. Even if there are controls, boundaries, or walls put up these systems can be compromised, hacked, contaminated with a virus and so on. It was very frightening to hear in your presentation about the three things needed on facebook and someone can just pop it into a website and there you are for who knows who to see! That stunned me quite a bit. I have tried putting my name (nickname) which everyone knows me by and I am nowhere to be found, but my government name into the google search engine and it's like appear out of thin air, it's quite disconcerting.

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