Tuesday, December 11, 2012

An Analysis of Privacy Options/Controls and Their Effectiveness in a New Media World

New Media has afforded everyone the opportunity to communicate quickly and efficiently. We are all given the opportunity to create, edit, and share content with millions of people around the world. Those opposed to new media’s rising popularity are concerned with its ability to create unhealthy addictions and the avenue it creates for bullying and hate crimes. Whatever opinions you may have towards new media, there’s no denying it’s prominent and potentially timeless existence. New Media has generated massive amounts of revenue, created a new lane for advertising, and dramatically increased personal development & networking rates. In this class, the benefits of new media are shown through the ways in which we communicate. Not only do we share our thoughts vocally during class, we share our personal learning lessons with our classmates through an online blog.

It is safe to say that most of the world correlates new media with internet applications and social media networks. “The media that allow consumers to become producers are undoubtedly social, and far more interactive than older, one-way media such as television” (Levinson, p.2). Programs like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. really allow people to engage with each other while sharing creative content.

These new communication conditions provide new levels of freedom to everyone. We are able to say and do things we would usually have to think twice about. New Media accommodates internet users with an atmosphere that is free from an authoritative presence (at least that’s what most of us think). Still, the independence that comes with new media requires protection: privacy. Most social media networks have established their own privacy controls within the applications. But the question at hand is, are these controls effective? In addition, what do they actually protect us from? “The Internet is international and largely unregulated. This means that the laws of any one country do not usually apply to Internet activities originating in other countries. Thus, it is necessary to discuss how privacy protection could be achieved in a globally consistent manner”(Chung and Paynter, p.1). Unfortunately, the same qualities that make the internet (new media atmosphere) so likeable are the very qualities that threaten its ability to maintain effective and comfortable privacy boundaries for its users.



Facebook was created in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg. Initially, the site was created as an online community for Harvard students only. Following its popularity, the site was then made available for college students all over the United States. However, after receiving much more attention, the initial requirements were changed. Subsequently, anyone over the age of 13 with a valid email address was able to join the network. The site is currently used by almost a billion people around the world. In addition, the site has also allowed celebrities to stay in touch with their fans and also assess their popularity by receiving likes. Advertising has also proven to be one of Facebook’s biggest strengths. Specifically, “Beyond personal use, businesses have deemed Facebook an important way to reach current and potential customers” (Bertolucci, para.1). So how is Facebook used by regular people? Facebook users are able to share ideas, locations, pictures, and much more.

Overview of Privacy Options and Controversial Issues

Facebook provides their users with a variety of privacy options. A user has the choice to select a specific audience for their profile information. The choices range from private (only friends can see information) to public (anyone, anywhere can view it). Facebook also provides users with blocking tools. This makes a certain user’s account information virtually invisible to users of their choice. In March of 2008, Facebook added instrumental changes to its privacy options. The information was featured in the website’s blog and posted by Facebook product manager Naomi Gleit. “Today, we are introducing privacy changes that work towards our goal of giving you the control you need in order to share information comfortably on Facebook. There are two ways we've changed things: a standardized privacy interface across the site, and new privacy options available through this interface” (Gleit, para.1). The changes were moderately received.

One of the most prominent issues facing privacy options, in relation to Facebook, is that most users don’t even know about them. “According to a Consumer Reports survey released on May 3, nearly 13 million U.S. Facebook users aren't aware of the social network's privacy control settings or simply don't use them at all. In addition, the last year saw 28 percent of them sharing all, or almost all, of their wall posts with more than just friends” (Palis, para. 2). A lot of people are unaware that they have options when it comes to privatizing their information.

While everyone can be introduced to a list of privacy options at any time, it seems that the growth of modern technology just cannot be stopped. With that said, one of the biggest threats to new media privacy is technology itself. “The advances of Internet and database technology increase information privacy concerns...Privacy concerns increase further as data mining tools and services become more widely available” (Chung and Paynter, p.2). How can privacy controls work, when pictures, thoughts, and ideas go viral within minutes? Apple products make screen-shots super easy by the simple click of two buttons. In response, Android users now have it much easier with the swipe of a screen.

As a matter of fact, last month, a Cold Stone employee by the name of Denise Helms, was fired for making inappropriate comments about president Obama. She wrote, “And another 4 years of this n***a, maybe he will get assassinated this term...!!”. While Helms’ comments were disgusting and uncalled for, her post was actually published privately. She was just voicing her [distasteful] opinion and probably thought her post would be confined to only her Facebook friends. Unfortunately, her comments rubbed one of her friends the wrong way. The post was copied, shared and went viral within days. She was fired and also placed at the center of a secret service investigation. The question some people are asking is, “Should her information on Facebook have been protected more? But the bigger question remains, can Facebook compete with modern technology to ensure the effectiveness of their privacy options?

In addition to these issues, there are several other concerns that Facebook users have. Apparently, Facebook decided to confidentially share its users information with its business partners. In response to the widespread concerns, Facebook policy manager, Andrew Noyes issued a statement:

We believe more than 900 million consumers have voluntarily decided to share and connect on Facebook because we provide them options and tools that place them in control of their information and experience. As part of our effort to empower and educate consumers, we always welcome constructive conversations about online privacy and safety (Golijan, para 5.).

It is nice to know that Facebook management provides an open line of communication for questions and concerns. In addition to this the website is also set to launch a new helpful feature. In particular,

The site will launch a new feature called “Ask The Chief Privacy Officer.” That feature makes it possible for the social networking site’s users to ask specific questions directly to the executive who handles their personal information. Facebook also plans to host podcasts and webcasts in the feature so that users can learn more about how to use the site’s privacy settings (Jones, para.3).

Clearly, Facebook is trying to find better ways to make their users comfortable. It appears that privacy is just as important to them as it is to its concerned users.


Twitter was created in March of 2006 by Jack Dorsey. Luckily, the social media site was received by internet users with much enthusiasm. In particular, celebrities Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs and Ashton Kutcher fueled the public’s interest by starting a friendly battle over who would reach one million followers on twitter first. Actor, Ashton Kutcher ended up winning the bet and by the time of his victory Twitter was definitely the place to be. Now, the social network is home to more than 500 million tweeters. Similar to Facebook, the site is an idea-sharing (messages and photos) forum. However, twitter users are limited to 140 characters per tweet (message). It has a following system which allows users to follow other users they deem as interesting. In addition, popular topics are represented by a #hashtag system which in turn generates local and nationwide trending topics. The site has also proven to be quite the marketing tool. “With Twitter, you can locate people who have similar interests, which can help you target potential customers. For instance, if your business is selling model trains, you can easily find other model-train enthusiasts and “follow” them, which is the process of enlisting to receive tweets sent by others. Through networking, you can build your own following and develop long-term relationships that can lead to sales” (Joseph, para. 4). Five years after its launch, Twitter is still considered one of the fastest growing and effective social media mediums available.

Overview of Privacy Options And Controversial Issues

First and foremost, Twitter offers users the option to delete tweets. If a user feels as though something he/she tweeted was inappropriate or unwarranted he/she can basically retract the statement, by simply deleting the tweet. Twitter also provides tweeters with page lock options (private profiles). Users with private profiles are able to hide their tweets from the general public. In other words, only approved followers have the option of viewing a private twitter feed. Retweets are a very popular action on twitter. If a user is in accordance with another user’s statement, they can simply retweet the message. A privacy concern that has surfaced is: public users retweeting private user’s tweets? Theoretically, this is impossible. When attempting to retweet a private user’s tweet you will receive an error message that indicates that retweeting a private user’s tweet is forbidden. First hand, this seems virtually complicated. However, by simply copying the person’s tweet, and placing RT before their user name, it is possible. You have the perfect retweet! There are also certain twitter mobile application interfaces that permit private user retweets (Tweet for Mac, Tweetbot, etc.). As a result, if a public user retweets a private user’s tweet… that tweet is now public information. Of course, new technology (screenshots) also poses a threat to information on twitter as well.  

This summer an interesting event took place between Twitter, Wall Street, and Malcolm Harris. Malcolm Harris was arrested and prosecuted for disruptive conduct for his involvement in the Occupy Wall Street protest in Brooklyn. As a result, New York City courts requested information (that had been deleted) from Harris’ twitter account. Initially, Twitter refused because, “Twitter's terms of service state that its users "retain [their] rights to any content [they] submit, post, or display on or through" the site” (Kerr, para.3). In the end, Twitter had to give up the information. Nonetheless, the site is now appealing the case. Twitter’s legal team released this statement, “We're appealing the Harris decision...It doesn't strike the right balance between the rights of users and the interests of law enforcement” (Kerr, para. 6). Clearly, Twitter is interested in maintaining the privacy of their users. But, the difficulty of maintaining that privacy once the federal government gets involved is proving to be a problem.


Instagram is one of the newest social media networks on the block. It was created by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger. The photo sharing program was introduced in October 2010. The application grew quite popular within a small time. As of September 2012, it was reported that more than 100 million people were active on Instagram. At first, the application was only available for Apple products (IPod, IPad, and IPhone). However, with its popularity, the app was made available for Android users as well. In early 2012, the application was bought for one billion dollars by Facebook. Although, the program began as a mobile-only map, it’s popularity has led to an online database program as well (www.instagram.com). In particular, Instagram allows users to share photos of anything (within appropriate guidelines). The application provides users with a series of filters and borders to create artistic-professional looking photos. Like Twitter, the application has a follow system. It also promotes the use of #hashtags to label popular photos and connect users.

Overview of Privacy Options And Controversial Issues

Like almost any other social network, Instagram allows users the option to keep their profile private or public. In the event that a user chooses the private option, a follower’s request must be approved before a full-fledged friendship occurs. The privacy settings are filtered through every aspect of the application. For example, an Instagram user has the ability to view their friend’s activity (pictures they’ve liked). However, pictures that belong to private users do not show up on activity timelines at all. (Exception: 3 mutual followers or more). This is a very effective way of ensuring the privacy of the protected users.

As previously stated, Facebook purchased Instagram earlier this year. This incident has
increased users concerns about privacy options. They are afraid that issues from Facebook will spill over to Facebook. “Facebook’s announcement that they may combine user data from Instagram with the data they already have, without seeking voting approval from a certain percentage of users, could generate an amalgamated profile that’s tricky to split and initiate privacy issues for users” (Facebook, para. 4). Users are worried that their information will be unrightfully used to create effective marketing strategies.


           Another event that raised questions about Instagram privacy issues was last month’s presidential election. During 2008’s election there was no Instagram, but with the emergence of the app, everyone wanted to show off their voting ballots and stickers. As of 3pm on election day, Instagram reported that a record-breaking 600,000 photos had been uploaded with the hashtag #voted (Mosbergen, para. 3). The issue raised huge concerns because, “According to this list compiled by the Citizen Media Law Project, many states forbid the documentation of one's vote.Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Nevada, North Carolina, Texas and West Virginia, for example, have laws that “expressly prohibit all recording inside the polling place....While in many other states, such as Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, New Jersey and New York, taking a photograph or filming a marked ballot is against the law” (Mosbergen para.4-6). The issue ignited a series of rumors. In particular, Instagram users were told that Obama’s vote had been decreased because of Instagram posts. This proved to be untrue, but it did raise concerns within user’s regarding their privacy rights.

And certainly like all the other social media networks named thus far, new technology has threatened the true effectiveness of privacy options on Instagram as well. A popular act on Instagram is reposting (similar to retweeting via twitter). To express a liking with a certain photo [post], instead of simply liking the photo, certain users may screenshot the photo and post it to their timeline. This is usually accompanied by a shout-out that includes the original poster’s username. However, with functions like screenshots, it is even easier to just take a photo of the original photo along with the [original] poster’s username information. In these cases, the jeopardy of privacy is apparent.




          Truthfully, it’s quite hard to believe that YouTube was created only 7 years ago. For most of us, it seems like it has been around much longer. However, in November of 2005, the website was launched by Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jared Karim. Since then it has been an internet phenomenon. Specifically, YouTube works as a video-sharing website. The website was designed to make video sharing (with vast amounts of people) easier. After only a year of service, there were more than 100 million uploaded videos on the site. In 2009, “According to Nielsen Online, YouTube is the 5th most popular Web brand in the USA” (Richman, para. 1). Now, the site is home to over 800 million users. Furthermore, over 4 billion hours of video are watched each month on YouTube and 72 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute 70% of YouTube traffic comes from outside the US. YouTube is localized in 43 countries and across 60 languages (YouTube). As of late November, ‘Gangnam Style’ by South Korean rapper Psy became the most watched video on YouTube, reaching a ground-breaking 815 million views since its debut.

Overview of Privacy Options and Controversial Issues
          When posting YouTube videos, users have many choices. They can make videos public, unlisted or private. A public video is available to the public. An unlisted video requires a direct link or direct title to watch. Unlike public videos, random users are unable to locate unlisted videos by searching through keywords. And lastly, a private video is not available for public viewing at all. The user who uploaded the video actually chooses the specific audience (up to 50 users) that will be allowed to view the video.
          Issues concerning YouTube’s privacy began back in 2006 when Google purchased the website for 1.65 billion dollars. It was no secret that the purchase was made to expand Google’s advertising impact. “Although some cynics have questioned YouTube’s staying power, Google is betting that the popular video-sharing site will provide it an increasingly lucrative marketing hub as more viewers and advertisers migrate from television to the Internet” (Google, para. 4). Most people are really annoyed because they know that their activity is being studied and targeted for perfecting marketing strategies. Users feel that their information should not be shared with others for these purposes. Most importantly, they feel as though Google should make this information known upfront.

Another issue that YouTube deals with on a large scale is copyright infringement. Although, the website has a detailed page that enforces its opinion and rules regarding copyright infringement, the problem is still persistent. YouTube has advised its users to

The way to ensure that your video doesn't infringe someone else's copyright is to use your skills and imagination to create something completely original. It could be as simple as taping some of your friends goofing around, and as complicated as filming your own short movie with a script, actors, and the whole works. If it's all yours, you never have to worry about the copyright—you own it! Make sure to follow the other guidelines in the terms of use, too.

Be sure that all components of your video are your original creation—even the audio portion. For example, if you use an audio track of a sound recording owned by a record label without that record label's permission, your video may be infringing the copyrights of others, and may be subject to removal. YouTube offers a library of authorized music to liven up your video.

These directions are proven to be ineffective because millions of YouTube viewers upload illegal videos every day. “While most videos posted on YouTube are homemade, the site also features volumes of copyrighted material — a problem that has caused some critics to predict the startup eventually would be sued into oblivion” (Google, para.8). While users have tried to creatively post videos that do not threaten copyright laws, the issue has not disappeared.

In fact, in early 2007, Viacom filed a lawsuit against YouTube accusing the website of extreme cases of copyright infringement. During the legal proceedings many were worried about the state of their privacy. As a result, Viacom issued a statement saying that the company “has not asked for and will not be obtaining any personally identifiable information of any user” (Glazowski, para.4). Most people thought the dispute had been settled since then. But apparently not quite, as of April 5, 2012, “A U.S. appeals court has revived lawsuits by Viacom Inc, the English Premier League, and various film studios and television networks accusing Google Inc of allowing copyrighted videos on its YouTube service without permission” (Viacom, para. 1). Now the issue of whether or not users are safe has resurfaced.


New Media provides everyone with several opportunities on a daily basis. We are able to openly share our opinions, photos, and overall lives with the people of the world. In most cases, each person is afforded the freedom to choose who their content is distributed to. However, with the rapid growth of technology and determined advertisers this process gets harder and harder every day. But who holds the blame? “To some people, Internet privacy concerns are not special issues, and some are just over sensitive as they realize that the Internet is growing” (Chung and Paynter, p.3). Some people are very passionate about privacy issues. On the other hand, others could care less (until something happens that directly affects them).

  It is clear to see that issues regarding internet privacy vary across the board. For those who are concerned, they’re specifically worried about their online material being used against them in a court of law. Whereas, other social media users are troubled at the idea of their information being unrightfully used in developing marketing strategies. At the end of the day, it is safe to say that almost everyone just wants to use the internet freely and comfortably. But for whatever the reason, privacy issues are still prevalent and people want answers.

So, is it the social network’s responsibility or should active users be more careful with the information they post on the internet? It is clear that networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram really want users to be in control of the information they post. They are more than happy to protect their users. But, in that same right, they want users to be responsible enough to know what is appropriate and what is inappropriate. “Thus, the best remedy you can apply for embarrassing photos and other new [new] media creations is the following: Do not post them in the first place. And, if you do, remember to remove them as soon as you are no longer happy with them in public view” (Levinson, p.24). While these prove to be excellent suggestions, more needs to be done.  It is believed that using a combination solution is possible to achieve privacy protection in a globally consistent manner. The combination of legislation, self-regulation and technical solutions may provide synergy that is more effective than a single solution” (Chung & Paynter, p.7). For now, the best resolution is a well-rounded option. These social networks must stay on top of the privacy issues and individual users must really think twice about the information the share through these new media mediums



Bertolucci, J. (2012, May 18). Facebook's History: From Dorm To IPO Darling -- InformationWeek. InformationWeek | Business Technology News, Reviews and Blogs. Retrieved December 10, 2012, from http://www.informationweek.com/security/privacy/facebooks-history-from-dorm-to-ipo-darli/240000615

Chung, W., & Paynter, J. (2002). Privacy Issues on the Internet . Department of Management Science and Information Systems, 1, 1 - 9 . Retrieved December 10, 2012, from http://www.computer.org/comp/proceedings/hicss/2002/1435/07/14350193b.pdf

Facebook Ads Coming Soon On Instagram: Company Says It Intends to Merge Both Data’s, Raising Privacy Concerns - Advertising Jobs and Careers News | Advertising Jobs and Careers News. (n.d.). Advertising Jobs and Careers News. Retrieved December 10, 2012, from http://www.advertisementjournal.com/2012/12/facebook-ads-coming-soon-on-instagram-company-says-it-intends-to-merge-both-datas-raising-privacy-concerns/ 

Glazowski, P. (2008, July 5). YouTube, Viacom Both Want To Uphold User Privacy. As For IPs.... Mashable. Retrieved December 11, 2012, from http://mashable.com/2008/07/05/youtube-viacom/

Gleit, Naomi. "More Privacy Options." Update Your Browser | Facebook. N.p., 19 Mar. 2012. Web. 10 Dec. 2012. <http://blog.facebook.com/blog.php?post=11519877130>.

Golijan, R. (n.d.). Consumer Reports: Facebook privacy problems are on the rise - Technology on NBCNews.com. Breaking News & Top Stories - World News, US & Local | NBC News. Retrieved December 10, 2012, from

Google buys YouTube for $1.65 billion - Business - US business | NBC News. (2006, October 10). Breaking News & Top Stories - World News, US & Local | NBC News. Retrieved December 11, 2012, from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15196982/ns/business-us_business/t/google-buys-youtube-billion/#.UMc7ceRuWCk 


Jones, M. (2012, December 11). Facebook Inc (FB) Addresses Users’ Privacy Concerns. Value Walk. Retrieved December 11, 2012, from www.valuewalk.com/2012/12/facebook-fb-addresses-users-privacy-concerns/

Kerr, D. (2012, July 19). Twitter appeals ruling in Occupy Wall Street lawsuit | Internet & Media - CNET News. Technology News - CNET News. Retrieved December 10, 2012, from http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-57476305-93/twitter-appeals-ruling-in-occupy-wall-street-lawsuit/ 

Levinson, P. (2013). New New Media(Second ed.). Boston: Pearson.

Palis, C. (2012, May 3). Facebook Privacy Options Ignored By Millions Of Users: Consumer Reports. Breaking News and Opinion on The Huffington Post. Retrieved December 10, 2012, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/03/facebook-privacy-consumer-reports_n_1473920.html

Richman, L. (2009, April 22). YouTube Growing Fast in Popularity, But Not Profit | LDS Media Talk. LDS Media Talk - Mormon Ideas. Retrieved December 10, 2012, from http://ldsmediatalk.com/2009/04/22/youtube-growing-fast-in-popularity-but-not-profit/ 

Viacom's YouTube Lawsuit Revived: Networks Accuse Google Of Copyright Infringement. (2012, April 5). Breaking News and Opinion on The Huffington Post. Retrieved December 11, 2012, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/05/viacom-youtube-lawsuit-google_n_1405911.html 

YouTube. (2012). YouTube. Retrieved December 10, 2012, from http://www.youtube.com/t/press_statistics


  1. A well thought out paper that asks questions about our privacy all the time in many of the social media forums. I enjoyed this paper and what it holds true in the years to come with Big Brother watching and a 1984 mentalilty lurking in the background....Just would have enjoyed seeing more sources that were not internet based like books....Are we depending too much at getting ALL of our information from the net? Hope libraries don't go away.

    Just my humble opinion....Thanks for sharing this....



  2. Haha, I thought about that as I was writing the paper.. Most of my sources were from the internet. I like books but the internet really has more current information. While I was actually finishing up my paper yesterday, I found an article that had been written only a few hours into that day...LOL But it had information that I really needed.

    It's a gift and a curse...

  3. These new communication conditions provide new levels of freedom to everyone, which is hard to regulate and control. Users are limitless as to what they can do on the internet they have free reign to do as please. Privacy protection is a global issue! As you mentioned Facebook is very public. Everyone tags photos, shares information and post their check-ins at various locations. It’s difficult to regulate such a large network. But if we begin with social responsibility progress can be made. We as the users must be responsible for what we post and share on the internet. We should be more cautious of our behaviors and actions and online.

  4. well written! love its and as the pervious commented staten I look to the internet for all my information because its very convenient. Who has time to go to the library? ( in my sarcastic voice) It is pretty sad. I want to add even though i am on social medias i try to keep them as "private" as possible if that even makes any sense.

  5. I still think it's crazy that people voted on a Facebook poll about the elections winner and it pretty much was equivalent to the actual election. Facebook is taking over one step at a time.