Can privacy exist in social media?

Privacy (rpongsaj via Flickr)The Facebook privacy flap of the last week, shows that today’s social media user wants to be able to share and stay connected, but on their terms.

We’ve embraced social media platforms such as MySpace, Facebook and Twitter that were designed to help us share our thoughts, our lives and experiences.  We’ve willingly handed out our personal information and content streamed our lives. But we want to own the personalities that we’ve voluntarily shared in the digital realm.

Information posted on the social Web is meant to be shared, so perhaps Facebook believed that ownership was not a concern to its users. Well, they were very wrong! 

Tens of thousands of people revolted after it was revealed that Facebook had amended their Terms Of Service to allow the platform to maintain user information even after users delete accounts.  This uproar shows that people believe that shared content, including photos and messages should be fully owned by the individual who created this content. Bottom line!

In response, Facebook reverted to its old policy at least for now, claiming that it’s a complicated issue. The fact remains that social media is exciting, so we’ve jumped in and shared, and maybe forget to think about what we’re doing. People may not fully understand the privacy issues involved. We’ve heard stories of repercussions when the data gets in the wrong hands – job losses, damaged relationships and even loss of insurance benefits.  The Lab highlighted how overexposure of our online profiles would certainly drive a privacy pushback in our 2009 digital trends. And this last week showed us that social media users still very much care about their privacy.

Brands that are involved in corporate-sponsored social media programs can benefit from showing a commitment to protect their users’ online privacy.