Your privacy, your responsibility

Allie Gordon, staff writer

Some Facebook users may have recently received an email explaining that the social media giant is the subject of a class-action lawsuit. Those who received this email, and choose to complain, may be compensated as part of the $20 million payout.

The result? A whopping 10 dollars.

More importantly, however, is the reason for the lawsuit. In essence, a claim was made that Facebook does not have the right to use members’ profile pictures in its Sponsored Stories ads, which highlight user activity related to an advertiser.

Clearly, Facebook really overstepped itself this time. How dare it infringe on my precious privacy? What is it thinking, displaying my actions for the world to see? Who’s business is it what I choose to do?

The problem is that simply by using Facebook, members make it everyone’s business. Online social media operates on the idea that people put private information into a very public place–the internet–and judging by the billion-plus users of Facebook alone, it’s a hit.

By signing onto Facebook, people voluntarily offer intimate information about themselves: their age, their hometown, even their sexual orientation. Statuses can share the most mundane, personal aspects of everyday life–“lol, pooping.”

So Sponsored Stories aren’t that outrageous of a development. Users feel comfortable sharing information about their relationship status and bowel movements, so why not support companies they like?

It’s assumed that Facebook users realize what they are signing up for. And if they don’t, they need to. With a Facebook profile, you put yourself out there for everyone to see; in return, you are able to see more about everyone else. That’s the point, that’s why we love it.

There’s a simple answer to those who don’t want their private life to become public knowledge via Facebook: keep it to yourself. Just as you wouldn’t spill your secrets to a stranger in the bathroom, don’t pour your soul into a computer. Most of the personal information asked for on Facebook is entirely optional–so just take the time to think. Want to keep your relationship “casual”? Then don’t change your status. Don’t want people to know how much you love Furbies? Then don’t click like, just scroll on.

Of course, there are real dangers that occur from posting personal information online. But these dangers are much more grave than people figuring out your guilty pleasures. Targeting Facebook for doing what it’s always been designed to do–share stories, connect lives–isn’t the answer to the privacy problem. Rather, users themselves need to be smart. So pay attention to your privacy settings, and exercise some restraint in what you share.

Understand that your computer isn’t your diary. It’s up to you to keep your own private life private.