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Transparency & Privacy

In chapter 9, the book highlights stresses why transparency is so vital in the online social media world. Ethical and Legal issues in social media continue to blur the lines between privacy and transparency. It’s all about us, as users of social media, being aware of how our highly personal information is used. The book gives us a couple examples about Facebook and its blunders with privacy. For instance, Facebook’s Beacon tracked user’s activities after they had left the social networking site, and broadcast to the user’s network of friends. This leads into the transparency aspect, because privacy policy is a tender subject. In 2009, Facebook changed their policy on privacy, claiming the rights to user generated content. This resulted in  huge criticism and recoil from the site, and ultimately a threat from the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. Facebook rethought its policy, and created a group of users that discuss privacy-policy changes, but it was still a shock to users getting us to really think about who owns user-generated content on social media sites. But the equilibrium of privacy and transparency is far from stable. Individuals forget how vulnerable they become when posting and sharing ideas on networking sites. Innovations in the web means we have to rethink how we define “intellectual property” and who owns it.

The concept of transparency is important in both the offline and online worlds, but I believe it is becoming more of an issue in the online world. As Pavlik & McIntosh said, “Issues of trademark infringement or other intellectual property issues have generally been dealt with using existing case laws, but other issues… need new legal thinking to be dealt with properly.”(274) We have standards and precedents for the offline world. We need to have laws about the innovative world wide web, that can provide us with set rules on how we handle “intellectual property”, making sure that privacy is not breached.

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