Privacy Levels on Social Networking Sites - To What Extent Are They
A social networking site can be defined as a website where people can network, and communicate with another. These websites are designed solely for the purpose of communities being made, whether you want to re-connect with an old high school friend, or whether you just want to make some friends online in general.
Social networking sites have revolutionised communication, and are now one of the main sources of communication used today. Facebook was created in 2004 by Harvard student Mark Zuckerburg, and is estimated to have over 175 million members (Hovi, Pitkanen, Tuunainen, 2009).
Whilst social networking sites have grown over the years, so have concerns about
privacy issues on these sites. Privacy is a hard concept to define, but it has been stated
by Johnson (1989) as follows:
“Privacy is a conventional concept. What is considered private is socially or
culturally defined. It varies from context to context. It is dynamic, and it is quite
possible that no single example can be found of something which is considered
private in every culture. Nevertheless, all examples of privacy have a single common
feature. They are aspects of a person’s life which are culturally recognised as being
immune from the judgement of others.”
In the context of this essay, Fried (1968) defined privacy as, “control over knowledge
Facebook initially was a network which only Harvard students could join. This was
then extended to other Ivy League schools, then to nearly all of the colleges in the
United States, and now it is a global phenomenon, where anyone in the world with a
valid email address can join.
It is extremely simple to join Facebook. You fill out a form online, which requires you
to fill out your full name, gender, your email address, location, age, occupation. It is
highly encouraged to put up a picture of yourself too, as this is the ‘norm’ on
Although not compulsory, you can also put your relationship status, and political
views up too, along with your hobbies and interests and contact number. A terms &
conditions page comes up, and by clicking accept at the bottom of the page, you have
become part of this new global network.
Unless you change your privacy settings, anyone in your network can search you, view
your profile, and see any of the information you have uploaded. People included in
your network could be your boss, colleagues from work, your family, your
Also, anyone on Facebook can search you, through filtering by any of the
data uploaded. This means anyone can ask you to be their “friend,” and send you a
friend request. This does not mean the traditional friendship we are used to, as
friendships have a different meaning in the era of social networking sites. This
friendship means giving access to your Facebook “wall,” where your friends can post