The Convenience of Privacy

When it comes to social media, privacy can be a tricky thing. People are on social networks to connect and share information with their friends. But certain people don’t want the entire world knowing their business. This is where privacy settings come in. If I’m being honest, I probably haven’t taken a close look at my privacy settings for at least six months to a year. I just don’t post that many things on social media where I feel like it would hurt my safety or my reputation if they were made totally public. There are certain things that I hide from certain people, mainly family members, that I might want to hide so I don’t get bombarded with questions. The beauty of status updates on Facebook, my main social network, is that you can block certain people from seeing one post, but not your entire profile. I am willing to admit that I have done that a few times to save myself a little stress.

I think many people don’t use privacy settings to their advantage because they either don’t understand them or aren’t aware of involuntary changes made to them. There are ways to combat both issues. Every time Facebook, Twitter or any other social media channel makes changes to their privacy policy, the channel needs to go out of their way to notify users. They can send emails, messages, news feed posts, whatever they need to do to make sure users are aware of the smallest change in their privacy. People will lessen the complaints as long as they feel like the channel is being honest with them. And to make users comprehend them better, instead of only using legal jargon, they could also have a simpler explanation next to it for reference.

Another aspect to privacy on social media is whether you should have to deal with journalists in a supposed “safe space.” I studied journalism in undergrad and I consider myself an ethical journalist. My alma mater, The University of Arizona, would condemn me if I were to ever try to contact a source of a sensitive news situation on social media. However, I will alter their way of thinking for my own process in getting the scoop. I will use social media to connect with a source, only if every other mode of communication had been exhausted. But, I would be completely honest about who I was and what my motive was. I will not compromise my integrity and ethics just for a story.

In the same vein, if I did gain access to that person’s private social media material, all of that material would remain private unless I was otherwise given permission to use it. If the words “off the record” are spoken, the information is not usable. I would not take the information from the source and share it as my own on any social network unless I was allowed to do so. Republishing material without permission is a form of plagiarism and copyright infringement. If I didn’t want someone else to do it to me, I am certainly not going to do it to them.

They Are Mining Our Data

I don’t know many of the technicalities behind data mining. I will say that this topic has many people afraid, myself included, that we will eventually have no privacy left and no way to protect ourselves. My biggest concern with data mining is that the public will not be able to prevent businesses and internet bots from taking our information and using it to their advantage. I think I may have mentioned earlier in the semester that I was shopping around on Amazon for a gift for someone, but didn’t automatically buy anything. After going back to Facebook, I saw an advertisement for a product I had just looked at on Amazon. To be fair, that’s the product I ended up buying, but it still was a little creepy that Facebook was able to get my information from Amazon and post the ad on my profile that quickly. But what if Amazon starts making suggestions you didn’t search for on their website? If it has your credit card information and your address on file, Amazon, or any other website where you store personal information, could steal your identity or do other things that you won’t even find out about until there’s nothing you can do about it. This rarely happens, but it doesn’t mean it won’t.

If I were creating ethical guidelines for my organization to collect data, the most important one is to be transparent about what data you are using and for what purpose. For instance, if my future blog were to ask about what concerts you’ve been to recently or what area of the country, or world, you live in, I would inform my audience that I was collecting that particular data to shape my content. I would also tell my audience that they don’t have to divulge any information they don’t want to, but the more they give me, the more tailored the content will be. Finally, if it was at a point where I would be selling a product, which I don’t know that I ever will, I would give customers the option of storing their credit card information or not. I would let them know there is a greater risk in storing your information, but if they didn’t they would have to enter it every time they make a purchase.

There’s a big difference between storing personal information for recreational or business use and storing it because of national security. I bring up several situations that have caused chaos in the nation over the last several years, such as the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords, the Boston Marathon bombing and the Sandy Hook school shooting. If the data mining of all of these individuals responsible for these tragedies could have prevented them from happening, I would be completely supportive of that. The only reason I would justify intelligence services data mining is for the physical and financial safety of all people that could potentially be involved.

Ethical Dilemma of Facebook

I have had a fairly substantial background with the idea of ethics as it relates to journalism. In my time studying journalism at the University of Arizona, I may have only had one formal ethics class, but the idea has been weaved through many of my other classes as well as my personal work. The part of the dictionary definitions of ethics and morals that strikes a nerve with me is the idea that morals are concerned with an entire society and not necessarily an individual. There should be certain universal morals of course, but the idea that an entire society dictates what’s right or wrong for one person to do irks me a little bit. I like the idea of moral dilemmas, because the “right decision” for one person within that society might not be the “right decision” for a different person in that society.

With regard to this week’s main discussion on whether it is ethical to send a friend request on Facebook to a murder suspect’s friend if you are a journalist, I would say yes it is. Means of contact are growing and I think as long as it is ethical to contact the murder suspect’s friend through phone or email, then social media should be OK as well. Speaking to the friend of the murder suspect has journalistic value, as lecture states, and as long as that source agrees to talk to you everything is fine in my book.

The video brought up the idea of whether or not the journalist should hide their identity as a journalist when sending the friend request. This is something I would never do because I find it unethical, however I understand and respect the arguments to the contrary. Certain situations like uncovering potential crimes would deem it necessary that a journalist hide their identity to obtain the story and I am OK with that. If there is a potential threat to any person and the only way to uncover that threat is by going undercover or concealing your identity, by all means do it. If this murder suspect has the potential to hurt other people and talking to the friend while your identity is concealed is the only way to help prevent future crimes, do it. But if the journalist is only interested in the story and not the well-being of the audience or the source, that to me in unethical.

However, nowadays many posts that appear on someone’s Facebook profile are public because they don’t take the time to make every post private or don’t fully comprehend the privacy terms and conditions. If you can find public information without having to send a friend request to the suspect’s friend, or if the request you do send is denied, that is also within the realm of things that are ethical to do in order to obtain the story.

I would take utilitarian approach when weighing the pros and cons of sending a friend request to the murder suspect’s friend. My duty would lie with the audience who may be affected by this story, which includes the source, the murder suspect’s family and the murder victim’s family. I think the model of motivation, likely effects and where your duty lies is acceptable in this as well as most cases of an ethical dilemma. I may not always use the same order when examining an ethical dilemma, but each aspect almost always comes into play.