THE SOCIAL NETWORK Not really. What’s accessible to your friends is unwittingly accessible to their friends too

A simple poser. Should you register for something that you want or don’t want? Logically, the default option must be that users can tick what they need. In reality, it’s the other way around. And it’s almost like a manufacturer’s licence. Certain clubs insist that you specifically intimate them in writing about a facility you are not interested in using. Mobile service providers require subscribers to sign up for the Do Not Disturb registry, as if disturbance is a right! And our dear social media has settings that make you vulnerable to invasion of privacy if you don’t turn certain options on or rather turn off what you can term ‘factory’ settings.

Let’s be honest. How many of the average users are entirely clued in about privacy settings? Facebook gives you the option to review posts friends tag you in. Or tags friends add to your own posts. Or to control who sees tag suggestions when photographs that look like yours are uploaded! There’s no ‘sped arrow’ doctrine here. Because you can also limit the audience for old posts. Twitter’s privacy policy operates on the default principle that “is almost always to make the information you provide public for as long as you do not delete it from Twitter, but we generally give you settings to make the information more private if you want”.

So it begs the question: Is your privacy a priority or a legal after-thought?

I know of several users who have opened separate Facebook accounts — one for their family and close circle of friends and the other for their professional contacts. No matter what precautions you take, there is the inevitable risk. Just last week, I had posted pictures of my one-and-a-half-year-old twins on Facebook. They were meant only for my friends. Here’s the catch. Friends of friends can easily get access to restricted content and either download pictures or share them on their walls — a perfect catalyst for the intended restricted stuff to go viral. What is your safeguard here? Inviting only select friends to view the album is an option seldom exercised.

But for that matter, nothing can prevent data thieves from clicking a picture and posting it on their walls for either some wrongful gain or cheap brownie points. When a stranger enters the fray, sending a message with a request to take off the content may not always work. It’s only a barbarian who will, in the first place, violate the privacy of one-year-old babies. And barbarians don’t reply.

On the subject of what is meant for public consumption and what can be shared by every Amar, Akbar, Antony, I still feel the ‘Reply All’ office communication malaise has percolated down to the social media.

There are users who just don’t know what is appropriate for a wall post and what is meant to be sent as a private message. And that for a direct message on Twitter, both the sender and recipient need to follow each other is also lost on some users.

Having said that, I must confess that the ‘Joy of Giving’ is triggered most effectively by the ‘Act of Sharing’ news links in the social media.

Last week, on the walls of friends I shared my blog on new borns who were not covered by medical insurance policy and needed help. The response was touching and overwhelming. The infants got the help they so desperately needed. It does take all kinds to make a world!