Looking back over 2012, identity theft, data security, and digital privacy, highlights (and lowlights) tend to point in the same direction – public awareness is the key to privacy, whether for good or ill.
In the shadow of the tragedy in Aurora, CO, the media quickly found that the suspect in custody, James Holmes, had no Facebook page. A few months later, we hear that not having a Facebook profile is quietly considered to be grounds for suspicion. And a quick look at Lindsey Stone in Arlington Cemetery is enough to show us that what we put on that Facebook account is enough to get us fired.
It seems to be a social Catch-22 is being built up around us that will keep us from expressing our thoughts and feelings through our digital identity.
Most of us know that social media is driven by advertisers, which is why we can have access to such wonderful things without any fees. The whole point for the companies has transformed from a simple networking site into something to help advertisers reach their target market – an obvious evolution. Simply put, it costs money to maintain servers and storage space, buy bandwidth, and so forth. The money has to come from somewhere.
Around the same time that Facebook opened up their public offerings on the stock exchange, the company also bought Instagram, which was subsequently exposed to public criticism for a change in the language of their copyright policy. The change didn't represent a new policy, mind you, it simply spelled out in greater detail the policy that was already in place – a clarification really. But the outcry against the perception that Instagram could take our pictures shared on the site and use them however they chose for a profit was loud, and the company quickly clarified their clarification, making sure everyone knew they still owned the copyright for their pictures.
All this has set the stage for the next couple of years in our legal system, whether we are talking about the laws that are being put into place, or the lawsuits that are coming to bear as users feel more and more… well, used.
It is unlikely that this hullaballoo will settle down any time soon, either. As pervasive as the internet has become in our lives, and the move over the past decade to use social media to stay readily connected to friends and family, our rights to control our personal information have been shifted from black and white to a legal gray-zone. And while consumer advocacy groups are doing their best to err on the side of caution, they simply lack the financial capability to bring the legal and legislative guns to the table that corporate lobbyists and attorneys are carrying.