With all of the perks and benefits which come with the Internet – the simple networking ability, the access to real-time information from all the world, the social media phenomenon, the way we can approach an entire day without leaving our desks – with many of these wonderfully convenient and appealing aspects of the internet world, there is still that one dark cloud that seems forever to be hanging on the heads of web-users. The issue of online privacy – or even more specifically, the lack thereof, seems to constantly be showing up at night news, in the office, and in countless blogs the world over. So is it something we must all be worried about, or is it another needless concern?

Do we care? Many think that the younger generation, or even the digital natives, hold a blas attitude to email privacy and security, not necessarily worrying about who or so what can access their house town, phone numbers, or general demographical information. Yet interestingly, a recent survey found that it must be in fact the 18-35 year olds that are more likely to be tread the web privacy waters more carefully than their older peers. It seems that even though younger demographic may be more easygoing about posting private details across their social network pages, they are also more likely to utilize the privacy settings in position to specifically dictate just who can access those private details. Based on a PEW study, for example, only 6% of teens allow both their first and last names to be noticed by most people on social networking sites. Perhaps the reason being most are only using social media to maintain in touch with already existing friends – and privacy settings are adapted so that no others outside their ‘friend’ lists can access their information.

Unfortunately for Facebook, lately it has been making news headlines for all the wrong reasons. Viruses are generating the rounds of Facebook pages, posing as ‘hilarious’ video links that appear to be to become posted on the wall by your friends, simply to infect your personal computer and steal your log in details in the event you click on them. Facebook recently introduced new privacy settings to enable users to improve control their online privacy, only to possess a backlash of complaints that the new settings were too complicated, with users confused and concerned over exactly how their personal data was being utilized. There is even a ‘Quit Facebook Day’ founded mid 2010 so as to boycott the social network site because of the online privacy issue, but which was met having a lukewarm response from your site’s users. In May 2010, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder, released a statement declaring that new and improved privacy settings were on their own way. With ‘privacy controls that are much simpler to use’ and ‘an good way to turn off all third-party services’, Facebook are trying to soothe their disgruntled users and place a conclusion towards the privacy breach rumours. A huge concern that remains is that however the privacy settings are simpler to use, they are not set as default – put simply, until you actively look for the privacy settings and change them yourself, your profile, information and photographs are for sale to the public. This means that when we want be private, we have to figure out how to get it done.

Holding us back – Social network sites also have come under fire of late because of a quantity of terrible abductions along with other crimes that have resulted from users falling for disguises online. Chat rooms have for ages been a worry for moms and dads, giving anyone from all over the world an outlet for direct communication with under-age Web users. One other major gnbptu concern often stems from online purchasing. As e-commerce continues to boom, unfortunately, so too perform the cases of identity fraud, monetary theft and fraud. Actually, many think that the thing holding back the e-commerce industry is the absence of consumer privacy protection online.

Education is the key – So does all of this imply that we must turn off our social media pages and refuse to buy online? Interestingly, authorities often respond to public concerns on the hazards of the web world by advising users to simply hide any information and then any personal information, or simply just not use certain websites. However perhaps it really is more realistic and sensible to advise Internet users to coach themselves on the privacy settings in the websites they frequent and make use of, and also to be personally responsible and accountable since they take part in sharing online. Mark Zuckerberg believes that ‘people desire to stay connected and present to those around them’. Users can perform this without privacy fears should they carry it upon themselves to become informed and to use the web responsibly. The web world has opened phenomenal opportunities when it comes to communication and global sharing, and although just like the majority of things, this comes along with its threats, we are able to use social networking sites and e-commerce without fear when we are responsible, clued-up and Internet savvy.