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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 21, 2010

Your life is like an open (Face)book


By Jenee Osterheldt

Privacy on the World Wide Web it's a conundrum. While navigating the Internet, an experience that's all about connecting, learning and sharing, very few people want to expose it all.

Screen names, friend requests and ways to limit and lock profiles make it easier to control one's audience. There's a sense of privacy in what you make public, about two cents' worth.

Technology is constantly evolving, and what can and cannot be shared is always changing, especially on the social network that is Facebook. Lately, the network's been making headlines by toying with what it deems private and public.

More than 400 million users log in to Facebook, which lets you "like" everything from a breaking story on CNN to a candy bar. Facebook will tell everyone all about you and your likes, if you let it. Now, it seems, the constant managing of privacy settings is pushing people away.

Not just everyday users, either.

One of my favorite tech blogs, Gizmodo.com, recently ran a post filled with 10 reasons people should quit Facebook. The site's co-founder, Peter Rojas, pulled the plug on his Facebook page. So did Matt Cutts, Google's webspam chief, who deactivated his account.

I have a few friends who've left Facebook, citing privacy and online drama. Now there's a new network on the rise, a sort of anti-Facebook: Diaspora (www.joindiaspora.com). Four New York University students are working to launch it. Diaspora aims to be a sort of online utopia where you really do choose your audience and don't have to worry about where your information goes. I remember when Facebook felt like that.

Sounds ideal, and I think it will be interesting. But for now, I have no intention of breaking up with Facebook just yet.

Does it get on my nerves? More than a little bit. The constant redesigns and new ways to connect annoy me. I hate the way it tells everyone what I said or posted on one person's wall. Hey, Elliot Schrage, can you work on that?

But the way I see it, any social network will involve some compromising in the privacy department. The other day, a friend told me she wasn't going to tag (identify) me in a picture because she wasn't sure if I wanted it online. The thing is, whether I tag it or not, it's me and it's out there. I understand that.

If it's that private or embarrassing, don't post it, don't do it or accept the risk. I don't always like it. In fact, I've been humiliated online.

But I get it. It's this simple. When you join a social network, be it Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare or whatever, you're in. Your words, thoughts and pictures all of it is in. Whether your page is private or not, you are in tangled in the World Wide Web.