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Public Living, Private Lives
By Andy Sim - on 23 Apr 2010, 7:21pm

I chanced upon an Ondi Timoner film recently, titled after Josh Harris' radical project which took place in an unassuming Manhattan building during the Dot.com boom. Based on real footages, I witnessed how volunteers agreed to live in "controlled" quarters where cameras were strategically planted across the compound to capture their daily activities. Yes, even sexual engagements weren't spared from the lenses. "We Live In Public" is a pseudo-documentary about the efforts of a visionary man with an egoistical flaw, who for all his canards, did attempt to get a message across to the masses. Case in point, to what extent are our lives public? Of course, all of these are tied to one vehicle - social media.

Just about a decade ago, social networking was still an infant in its nascent phase. Remember chat rooms and the infamous IRC? Indeed, most folks were still relying on 56K modems to communicate over the web, but boy oh boy, how things have changed. Mobile and broadband communications have made giant leaps in recent years, and one of the benefactors to reap its benefits are business-minded developers who earn their greens with social media platforms. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, you name it, they are there to capitalize on a pervasive and indispensable network infrastructure we depend on today. Truth is, there is an inevitable outcome we must heed - with great social networking tools, come great responsibility (if you can forgive the cliche). However, it's apparent many folks out there are still casual, or even careless, with how they manage their thoughts, photographs, and annotations on these very public sites.

If you recall, Facebook made some adjustments to their privacy settings in December last year. Reason? "To give you more control over your information and help you stay connected." What happened, in fact, was Facebook took it upon themselves to tweak them in a bid to "simplify" the process and to make your name and picture more readily available, in the name of social networking of course. For example, the "About Me" portion became viewable by everyone on the platform, and personal photos became apparent to "friends of friends" regardless of your previous security settings. If you had mind enough to tighten those fields, good for you. For those who ignored or bypassed this step, let me remind you that some of your information is indeed, out in the open since then.

Sometimes, even the tightest security measures might not be good enough. About a year ago, a former IT administrator was arraigned for breaking into students' Facebook accounts, 16 in all, before proceeding to steal some of their nude and semi-nude photos from their profiles. Closer to home, a part-time Singaporean model uploaded bawdy photos of herself on Facebook recently, only to have them "leaked" and distributed to other sites. Who is to blame? I gather such instances wouldn't have occurred if those suggestive pictures weren't uploaded in the first place, yes? 

I can go on citing similar incidences, but one thing remains effectively clear. As much as social media is at its pinnacle now, where everyone stays connected to everyone, I believe we should remain as masters over our tools, and perhaps exercise a level of caution when publishing our exclamations and pictures, racy or otherwise. We are humans after all, not bees, and it does pay to command a little privacy at the end of the day. For all the attention seekers out there, I can only say no one needs to know what's going on with your life 24/7. And should you decide to upload any questionable content, you might want to know that nothing on the world wide web is truly private. Nothing.

Here's to a spiffy weekend folks.

P.S. More updates. Facebook opened up another wormhole recently by allowing sites like Docs.com and Pandora to pull information from your profile. However, if you value your privacy above all else, Mashable has some quick fixes like blocking "Instant Personalization" access from other sites for example. Check them out here.

Andy Sim

Andy Sim / Former Senior Tech Writer

Andy is a self-made geek with a penchant for good music and a hearty pint. His domain includes swanky TVs, notebooks and networking gizmos.