An interesting article by George Wright in The Age talks about rules for social etiquette on matters of privacy over the Internet. Namely, how to avoid damaging the privacy of others through whatever it is that you're doing on the Internet. The sad fact is that while one may take all the precautions in the world, the hapless actions of a generally well meaning friend can quickly bring all these efforts to ruin (e.g., the friend letting Facebook upload the contents of their smartphone's contacts information).
First, a disclaimer: I have been guilty as anyone with these things. On one hand I am definitely more aware now of these issues than the majority of people, while on the other hand I am quite active in the social media scene (blogs, photographs etc) so I can easily damage my friends' privacy through the slightest errors here and there.
Next, I would like to quote the privacy etiquette rules specified by the article (while wondering if I am breaking copyrights as I do so?). I've dropped my own notes in brackets:
Indeed, I think these are good rules to follow and I recommend you do. I would also love to hear what you have to say about these rules and my interpretations/notes: I really hate the feeling I get whenever I realize I've infringed a friend's privacy.
- Don’t offer other people's information, even inadvertently. Before you wish someone a happy birthday or anniversary, check to see if they have set that in their profile. If in doubt say nothing.
[In general, I try to avoid mentioning birthdays as birth dates can easily be used for identity theft, at least in Australia.]
- Don’t get specific.
[I often get specific about myself; I try to avoid being specific about others, but I suspect I slip too often.]
- Don’t tag photographs. Leave it up to the person to tag themselves if they wish.
[In recent years my practice is to tag the first name only, under the assumption there are too many "John"s in this world but only a bare few that matter to me and whom I want to be able to easily locate amongst my photos. Needless to say, the number one step to take when it comes to protecting your friends' privacy (and yours) is to avoid posting your photos in forums that treat them as company property, such as Facebook or Picasa. Ownership matters!]
- Don’t break the scope of the message (No Gossip clause) - If a story or piece of information was shared between a small group, Do not re-share or cut and paste it into other networks.
[I couldn't agree more. I have a good friend who regularly takes my photos out of Flickr and posts them by email, thus pissing me off on a regular basis. He's not doing anything illegal and his distribution list is limited, but still - he's creating multiple copies of my original, and in the process we all lose control of the photos' whereabouts.]
- Check your profile regularly, see if any fields that you have set as empty have since been “helpfully” filled in by the software making inferences.
[This is otherwise known as "The Facebook Rule", although it definitely applies to LinkedIn just the same.]
- Agitate against the rule that real names must be used.
[This is otherwise known as "The Google+ Rule".]
Image by SaFoXy, Creative Commons license