it takes two to (post about
my interest in) tango
by Meme Jami
I am genuinely baffled as to why anyone would put their Facebook profile on public, especially if they have children, and post pictures of them. I don’t mean the act of sharing; I think as social animals it makes sense we would want to connect with others. I mean I do not understand the need to give blanket access to that sharing. And I’ll cut to the chase and say that this behavior isn’t limited to those most would consider owners of poor judgment. I see this from well educated, political, and emotionally balanced individuals too.
We have read the story of some random woman who got fired from her job for writing a racist screed on her public Facebook page, we have read the story of the crook who posed with his stolen stash on his public profile pic, and we have read about the house that got robbed due to its public Facebook Event that it would be uninhabited during the holidays. I’m not baffled at these incidents; these are moments concerning terrible judgment and an inability to critically think well, and the results never really surprise or confuse anyone except maybe the individuals involved.
I am baffled by something less obvious. The Facebook posts showing nice, inoffensive inner thoughts, pictures of friends laughing, linked articles about a local museum, photo albums of kids playing. These are the public posts I cannot understand. Why public? What is the need? The amount of information I can dig up on a public post is amazing, even with innocuous content. I know who you are, what you wear, what your habits are, what your tastes are, where you went to school. And unlike a conversation with a stranger at a bus stop, I can keep all of this data forever. Screenshots on my hard drive. You can’t delete your cover photos on Facebook, so they’re basically mine forever too. Your friends commented on that photo? Now I know who your friends are, and of that camping trip you two took in November. Comments attached to photos often yield more information than the photo itself. If I were unscrupulous I could use all of that information at great cost to you, for whatever reason, regardless of your having kids or not, regardless of whether your public posts were controversial or not.
And if you do have children? Pictures of your young daughter forever on my laptop. If I was a more broken person, I could upload all of those innocent kiddie pics to various awful websites that have various awful people masturbate to them. There exists software just for the purpose of scrolling through public posts for pictures of little boys and girls. There exists software, and people, that do much more. Children have zero agency in how their image is used, and I see parents (good, caring, intelligent parents) take that agency and just piss it away, not thinking that their future 20 year old daughter may want that privacy back. That 16 year old son might not want that picture from when he was 7 permanently out there, especially if some foul human has drawn dicks all over it, or Photoshopped it next to an adult’s naked body.
Why hand over information to the entire public? I don’t want to anyone to live in fear, I’m genuinely not trying to fear monger with this article, or create shame where none exists. But I don’t think suggesting generic privacy is fear mongering. I don’t think actually advocating for children’s privacy is being paranoid. I think it’s common sense, especially during an era where our concept of privacy is being challenged by our own government. Regardless of one’s political orientation, I think most citizens worry about government overreach, and the repercussions for us legally. I think if we inadvertently train ourselves, and our young, that privacy is not worth much, then that creates a risk of complacency. Which is dangerous for reasons that should be obvious.
I’ve not even gone into all the corporate tracking software, or insidious ad tracking practices, or how your original content (family photos, pictures of the dog, your posts regarding breakfast or the president) is monetized and used to hand other people profit, while you gain nothing. I’ve not gone into the “liking” of some dumb picture on a corporate page and how that page tracks you and your kid’s faces forever. I’ve not delved into “like if you agree” tracking posts, or how you’re doing corporate advertising for no pay, like a sucker. I’m just talking about basic privacy.
If you are a person that generally locks their doors at night, or closes the curtains, locks their bike, or hides their Social Security or credit card numbers, then you are performing an act of protection for yourself, and de facto agreeing that privacy is necessary. So why leave your online door open? And if you really feel fine in doing so for yourself, please explain and justify why you can do this with your children’s digital spaces. I’m genuinely baffled.
And yes, upset. As can be read here, I am confounded and angry. I’m not “tsk-tsking” my neighbor as I peer into their window, getting into their business that would ordinarily not involve me. I’m not pearl clutching at behavior that offends me. Instead, I’m worried, with good cause, that people’s privacy habits will end up impacting my legal rights in the future, or that information about me will be shared without my consent, simply because some Facebook friend decided that information was valueless to them.
I can remember when the Internet was “born,” and I remember how excited, and, yes, probably naïve, I was regarding its future. I’m mad that our Internet freedom and our privacy are at great risk from both government and corporate agencies. I’m mad that otherwise intelligent people seem to not care. And I’m writing this article so that I may hopefully accomplish two things at once: To understand why public postings happen, and to hopefully give those who post publicly some food for thought.