The founders of Glassmap, a new real-time location sharing service, have made clear their company’s stand when it comes to privacy. It is observed that many online users are becoming more involved with software services and applications. In fact, some of them describe their day as “incomplete” if they cannot share pictures, post comments, or add friends. There seems to be a strong force that links a user to a certain software service or application.
Glassmap has been criticized for alleged user privacy violations. Its “Post to Facebook” option in its registration process was the one that triggered such an unfavorable reaction. If the option was left checked, the Facebook user’s Timeline would show an invitation to join Glassmap. This, critics say, exposes users to more privacy risks, even though they might also be benefited from it. The company said that Facebook told them to eliminate this “feature”, which it did.
The founders encourage real dialog about online privacy instead of wasting productive minds and technology on petty controversies. According to them, there are four important areas that need to be given real attention. These are real-time adaptability, transparency, the right amount of privacy, and user-service symmetry.
Privacy thresholds continuously change as often as the user changes his or her location. Some social networking companies like Facebook have a feature that gives users the option to choose privacy thresholds. However, this does not really offer real-time adaptability. To make it more adaptive, users must be able to change privacy thresholds easily as he or she moves from one location to another, like from home to work. To date, this kind of feature is yet to be experienced.
Some social networking companies are also criticized for lack of transparency. To be transparent means that users clearly see their actual privacy settings. There must be a way to let users see not only which part of their data is shared, but also with whom they are sharing it with. Sharing someone’s data with “friends of friends” needs to be fine tuned. Why? It is because you might know all of your “friends”, but not all of the “friends of friends”.
Giving users the right amount of privacy means better privacy. This right amount is somewhere between sharing everything and sharing nothing. The present state allows users to only choose between these two extremes. This must be sought with transparency and control still being preserved.
At present, developmental efforts are being focused on improving user-to-user relationships. Many privacy issues can be cleared if the user-to-service relationship is also enhanced. To make this happen, services must present back to users the information that they gather. Most importantly, users must know what information was collected from them. Service companies have to be more open to users because they act as user-to-user proxies.Tags: Internet Privacy, Privacy Issues, social networking sites