Privacy dominates our intro to Online Insights this fortnight. Facebook is at the centre of discussions, primarily because it is at the centre of so many of our lives. Then we have some fun with journalistic style and the end of an ere at a local library; captured on video. As always, send me your favourite websites for future shows.

Privacy on social networks

Stories abound discussing the pros and cons of sharing information about yourself on the various social networks, specifically, Facebook.

On one hand, I have heard people argue that no matter what privacy protection is in place, if you want to keep things private, just don’t put them online. While others are more optimistic arguing that there is enough legal protection around to enable us to trust companies to live up to their privacy policies.

While my position lies somewhere in the middle, the Australian government has produced some online resources to give you a balanced overview. Questions include:

  • Are there any privacy risks associated with using social networking sites?
  • Do I have rights under the Privacy Act when I use social networking sites?
  • What can I do to protect my privacy when using social networking sites?
  • What can I do if someone posts information about me on a social networking site that I want removed?

I think one of the helpful summaries on this site, are these points made in the context of the question, are there privacy risks:

  • Don’t be under any illusions – it’s not just your close friends listening in!
  • Are you sure you want that information to be public?
  • Remember that activities online affect your life offline
  • Protected your own privacy? …what about your friends?
  • Watch out for identity theft

From our point of view, in Australia, if the social networking site is based in another country, such as the USA, then you may not have privacy rights under Australian law when you use the site. If the site is based in Australia, and it’s not a small business (a small business is an organisation with an annual turnover of $3 million or less) then the Privacy Act may apply. But the Privacy Act doesn’t cover individuals acting in a personal capacity. So, individuals posting information on social networking sites would usually be exempt from the coverage of the Privacy Act (though their actions may be covered by other laws).

One final point is that if the information on your MySpace or Facebook page is publicly available, then anyone can look at it, including people in organisations.  This means potential employers could look at your MySpace or Facebook page and perhaps base their decisions on what they see there. But, if an organisation collects and stores information from your page to use for something, and that organisation is covered by the Privacy Act, then it must comply with the National Privacy Principles.

Find out more on the government’s privacy pages.

Social Media as a police tool

Inspector Clousseau - would he now use Facebook?

Inspector Clousseau - would he now use Facebook?

This article from the Fairfield Citizen makes a nice segue from the previous site because it highlights how the “lack” of privacy, or rather the public nature of social networking sites can actually benefit society.

The article says that police in parts of the US now hit their computers rather than the beat when an investigation starts. Although they still need to participate in old-fashioned policing and investigation, they look for clues on social media sites such as:

  • conduct background searches on suspects
  • verify alibis
  • obtain location information
  • disseminate or verify information with the public

The article refers to a case in Brooklyn, NY, where a man charged with a robbery was able to show his twitter activity which suggested he was making pancakes at the time of the robbery, providing him with an alibi.

The article does highlight the obvious risk: once people cotton on to this they can manufacture social networking update to cover their tracks.

So what do we learn from this? Tweet frequently and detail your movements to an acutely mundane level of detail because you never know when that cover may come in handy!

Read the article at the Fairfield Citizen.

Fake AP Style Book

This is one of the funniest but most insightful Twitter accounts I have ever found. It is compiled by a coalition of various journalists, editors and designers in the US and it is spot on when it critiques mass media.

The AP Style Book is a reference book written by The Associated Priss as a guideline for their journalists and editors on grammar and style choices.

The “fake” style book is being written one tweet at a time and I just need to share some with you to give you a taste – the first one relates directly to our topics discussed thus far:

  • It is no longer necessary to write new stories about Facebook privacy issues; just change the dates.
  • balance – Allowing some dimwit to yap very briefly about his incorrect position.
  • “Pop Tarts” is a trademark and should not be used to describe generic products such as Taylor Swift or Miley Cyrus.
  • All mentions of David Schwimmer should include a reference to FRIENDS because, really, what else is there?
  • infrastructure – To be used for to public works projects and government property if no one knows what they’re talking about.
  • When covering comic book conventions, be sure to walk past 400 normal people to interview the fat guy dressed like Aquaman.
  • When reporting on broken box office records, pretend that ticket prices have remained unchanged since 1943.

Enjoy more by reading their Twitter timeline.

Video dominoes

Tea Tree Gully Library has officially said goodbye to VHS videos and to celebrate staff came in one weekend and put what looked like at least 1,000 videos through a domino toppling track.

Staff filmed the giant domino train which spread throughout the library space as a fitting homage to their service – which is now being prpvided by DVDs.

It is not the most polished domino train you will ever see but is novel Watch for some of the edits where the librarians didn’t quite get the physics right and had to restart the toppling manually. That said, there are some neat innoivations such as the jumping videos and a few branch lines.

As they say,” May the videos now rest in peace. Long live the VHS!”

See the video on YouTube here, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p2Qup0kA6kw&feature=autof, or just watch below.

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