Social networking has had several years to ingrain itself within the fabric of the World Wide Web. Whereas web users once relied on emails and instant messaging for most of their online communication, social networking pioneers changes the face of how Internet users connect on a fundamental level. While many of the pioneers in social networking have faded into oblivion, megasites like Twitter, Facebook, and the newly-released Google+ boast millions of active users who share intimate, personal details on these sites. This sharing has led to several ethics questions, regarding the behavior of both users themselves and those who have access to such data.
One of the primary concerns for social networking users is the corporate players who can gain access to profiles and mine them for information that can in turn be used in the company’s marketing strategy. This is a particular rampant problem for sites like Facebook, wherein a company can access several different aspects of a user’s profile through something as simple as an application installation. Unfortunately, many users don’t pay attention to what the app requests access to, meaning they give the developer carte blanche to use their personal information as they see fit.
In addition to companies who operating unethically on social networking sites, many professionals are beginning to be faced with questions regarding their behavior online. Several different occupations require workers to keep limited contact with customers, clients, and patients outside of their place of employment. Still others may simply wish to keep that distance out of personal preference. When those users are added on networks like Facebook, it raises questions regarding what is and isn’t appropriate for online contact.
Some working professionals have gotten around these questions by keeping their profiles private, only giving access to a select group of individuals. Still others have foregone social networking usage all together, in order to ensure that such problems do not arise. While it is an unfortunate reality that some people are being forced to give up the opportunity to use social networking as a legitimate form of communication with loved ones and friends, it is nevertheless necessary for many parties who have been affected by such problems.
Fortunately, several companies are working to change the structure of popular social networking sites, which could lead to a decrease in such issues. Google+, which was released in beta earlier this summer, has helped to level the playing field for would-be social media users, allowing individuals to easily determine what information they share with what friends they’ve connected with online. Facebook has also begun to implement similar measures in the past few weeks, with users now asked if they want to share posts, photos, and comments with the world or only with select parties.
Positive steps forward by the main players in the industry will help to ensure that social networking remains an ethical environment for computer users looking to link with others online. Furthermore, legislation introduced by politicians across the globe is intended to close some of the stickier loopholes that have causes issues for some users. The hope is that the social networking world of tomorrow will be easier to understand and will allow the network members to more effectively share their information with only those they’ve chosen specifically.