Social Networking: Is it safe?
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I am a girl living in Colombo and I just have one question for you. I don't like to put any pictures of myself on facebook because I don't like everyone to see them, but my friends say that it's ok and safe. Can you please advise me about what I should do?
I am not a very old man – in fact last week I had to take out my ID to prove to a security guard that I was over 21, just so that I could walk through a casino to get to the cinemas at other side of a shopping mall! But I still have vivid memories of a time when nobody was even sure what the Internet was – let alone social networking sites. So all the socially inept and intellectually challenged people had to wear snow-caps and sunglasses and hang out in popular shopping malls like 'MC' or 'LP' to get attention and feel 'noticed'. Most of them seem to have migrated to 'Hi5', 'MySpace' and 'FaceBook' now, even though some of them who don't have access to the Internet sometimes seen loitering around such malls.
First of all, it is good to know that you are concerned about your online privacy and safety and your concerns are well founded. The truth is that there are people out there with twisted intentions which are often very harmful to the subjects and not as 'funny' as those rascals intend it to be. The classic image of a typical culprit is the fifty year-old man with paedophilic intentions. This is often not the case. In most instances where a person's image has been distorted and abused, the offender is often a friend or someone in your 'friends list' playing a 'practical joke' or trying to avenge someone. People in your friends list usually have full access to all the pictures you have uploaded on a social networking site. So the most prudent first step you can take to protect your privacy is to add as 'friends’ only people you know and trust.
In your case, FaceBook lets you adjust the security settings for the pictures you upload so that you can choose who has access to them and who doesn't. One thing you can do is to restrict access to pictures of yourself and of your friends only to those in your friends list that you trust. It is also important that you advise your friends to do the same. Even if you have taken every measure to protect your privacy, one of your friends may upload a picture of you in her profile which could compromise your privacy if proper security measures have not been taken.
Being able to share pictures is one of the more interesting features in social networking and it is actually a nice way to keep in touch especially with friends and family who are far away. If you are not comfortable about uploading a picture of yourself on to a social networking site, it is always perfectly acceptable and you shouldn't do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable.
If and when you do upload pictures of yourself or sensitive personal information such as postal addresses, telephone numbers and information about your workplace for example, always make sure you take the highest precautions and be able to draw a clear line between publicly relevant information and what should remain private. Good luck!