In the Digital Age, What Is Private?

September 4th, 2014
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Digital Age What Is Privacy BurrellesLuce Media Monitoring Public Relations PR Software News Clipping Press Clipping

flickr user FutUndBeidl under CC BY

Could your kid suffer repercussions because of what you post on Facebook? That would be a yes, if you’re Ashley Habat, a mom from Florida whose son was expelled from preschool because of negative comments she made about the school on her Facebook timeline.

While Habat said the post was “private to [her] friends only,” she tagged the school in the post. “Why would you expel a four-year-old over something his mom posts to a private Facebook page only people on her friends list can see?” Habat asked.

Aside from the fact that tagging the school means it’s no longer just the people on her friends page, this story from last week ties in to the broader dialogue of what is private in the age of social media. Should we have the expectation that what we post on social media is absolutely private?

We shouldn’t, if we want to be savvy social media users. The Internet is not a private place, and screenshots and cached images mean that even deleted postings never die. This permanence can mean longer-lasting damage to personal reputation the reputation of the poster and the subject of their posting.

But you can also have private things online that no longer remain private thanks to malicious third party, as we’ve seen this week with famous female celebrities who had their personal photo streams hacked and the pictures leaked.

So what’s a savvy, everyday Internet user and public relations pro to do?

Think before you post – Always. You have the right to say what you think, just exercise prudent judgment about how it would reflect upon you if it were no longer private.

Enable every security setting you can – You also have the right to do what you want (within the confines of the law, of course) with your photos and content on your phone, email, and social media. But take as many steps as you can to prevent it, like two-factor authentication and better passwords, but know that even those steps might not matter much when it comes to hacking.

Value the privacy of your audience – It’s great to want to personalize brand experience, but because privacy is such a sensitive issue, campaigns should not be creepy or give the sense (or actuality) that the audience’s privacy has been invaded.

How do you define and protect your online privacy? How can organizations strive to protect the privacy of their audience?

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