Ning’s Privacy Issues
My background is not only media studies/theories but I’m also enrolled in the Bachelor program of Law at the University of Amsterdam. This post is about my critique on the interaction between privacy and user on Ning.com.
For class we had to do an assignment about the social networking site (SNS) Ning.com. Register, play and write about it. My first question was: what about the privacy on Ning? We all know the stories   of Facebook, Myspace and Hyves that the creators (companies) are in total control of the network instead of the people (users). Is Ning different from others?
Ning – as Facebook, Myspace, Hyves etc. – gives you a feeling that you’re in total control. ‘Create, customize and share your own social network’ and ‘create your own network with specific interests with your own design, choice of features and member data’. Or for instance the name Myspace says enough. It’s ‘your’ space and you can do whatever you want. But is this true?
Yes and no. Some might argue that there are four aspects that creates the notion of/around online privacy on SNS:
The first three institutions are out of your control. Companies collect data and use it for economical purposes, governments check and create legislation and your friends are doing with data what they want. So you hardly can’t influence these three institutions. But what you can control, in a very limited way, is your own privacy.
SNS give you a feeling of total control. You have the freedom to post whenever and whatever you want, upload photo’s, make friends etcetera. Ning for instance even got an option ‘privacy’ where you can set the level of privacy of your personal data for other people. People assume that they are now in total control of their own data. But in my point of view they are wrong. It’s only a deceptive feeling.
All your data thus become property of Ning.com. Whatever the privacy privileges you have in your own country. The servers run in the United States, so you’re subjected to US law. Since 9/11, CIA and FBI have the power to use your data in every way they want. (USA Patriot ACT) Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism. The Act increases the ability of law enforcement agencies to search telephone, e-mail communications, medical, financial, and other records; eases restrictions on foreign intelligence gathering within the United States. Privacy?? I don’t think so.
How are we going to deal with such issues about privacy?
- Give children, in an early stage, education in media wisdom and teach them about privacy issues on the internet
- Learn from your own mistakes. Years ago we let our doors open, but we learned from it and now we have to lock our doors. May be this kind of evolution is the same for the internet.
- Create some kind of understanding or awareness of the use and working of SNS. We can do this ourselves but governments can also play a vital role (example of dutch government)
- Extend legislation for customer protection. Better protection of member data.
Public sharing of private lives has led to a rethinking of our current conceptions of privacy. Ning.com hasn’t changed that. It’s not only a governmental issue – the government has the task to provide info and make legislation – but it’s a form of creating consciousness and awareness. We think we are more and more in control, but we’re losing it and may have to accept that. That’s why we must be more careful in putting info online about ourselves. But how are we learning that to the billions of people online?