Interaction or Intrusion

With the advent of new social media technology, individuals in our modern society are able to engage and participate in social interaction in more interactive ways with greater convenience and cost efficiency. However, it has also given rise one pressing concern which has severe impact on the individual seen in terms of its intrusion on the privacy of individuals when participating via new media. Although there are regulations to prevent such intrusion, the effectiveness is subjected to debate.

Narcissism

New social media’s revolutionary approach in engaging participation will profusely encourage individuals to reveal information about them. The prevalence of social networking sites like Facebook and microblog Twitter have cultivated narcissistic societies that embrace individualism, as seen by the constant need to share with fellow users what they have been doing and how they are feeling. Therefore, through these new media platforms, people have direct access into the lives of others without having to be physically present or personally enquire them to find out more. Hence, people seemed willing to subject themselves to such monitoring in order to maintain their social circles, but at the expense of their privacy.

The prevalence of social networking sites like Facebook and microblog Twitter have cultivated narcissistic societies that embrace individualism, as seen by the constant need to share with fellow users what they have been doing and how they are feeling.

Privacy Settings

However, those who support the use of such technology would refute these claims as users have the prerogative to self-regulate and decide how much should be left open to the public. It is noted that new media technology possess features that can limit access for viewers or unwanted strangers who attempt to pry into the private lives of their victims. For instance, Facebook has specific settings to determine the privacy level, such as allowing full public access or limiting viewing only to direct friends. Although detractors may claim that limiting access defeats the purpose of using new media, users themselves are not compelled to provide free and easy access to their personal information that may leave them vulnerable to virtual threats.

New media has been gaining more appeal and the increasing number of users have given rise to the question of whether the personal information we put up online is kept safe and away from the hands of malicious netizens. By the end of 2012, Facebook would have more than 1 billion users, while Twitter would have more than half a billion users. These figures reflect the surging appeal by the masses in this technology age and how infectious new media can be. New media promotes interconnectedness, similar to how English acts as a universal language that all countries can use to converse with one another. However, the benefits come with a hefty price, as some would claim. Detractors are quick to bring up the issue of whether all the information new media has collected is kept in safe hands and not open for commercial sectors. As we know, leaving personal information openly online can be dangerous as this give social predators the opportunity to pounce on victims. Hence, new media may have become a shortcut for malicious users to intrude on the privacy of others.

New media promotes interconnectedness, similar to how English acts as a universal language that all countries can use to converse with one another.

Government Regulations

However, some may beg to differ as government regulation is imposed on what new media can pass on to the sectors that may seek to exploit on the personal information left behind by unaware users.  For instance, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998, requires operators of children’s Web sites to obtain parental consent before they collect personal information like phone numbers or physical addresses from children under 13. Detractors may argue that as the younger generation is getting increasingly exposed to new media, parents would face difficulties in keeping constant supervision on their children whenever they use the Internet, thus children may unknowingly fall into the traps of online predators.

The intended collection of these personal data would be commercially exploited legally or illegally as seen from the way new media technology exploit individuals’ information through location search and other forms of marketing activities used for marketing activities. Therefore, it is inevitable for media technology to use personal data provided by individuals as a means to gather more information and thus is the major source of revenue, seen in the data-mining activities and other online marketing activities.

However, the growing concern on the intrusion of privacy has encouraged the government to set up more legislation that limits on how these personal data can be used for commercial purposes. In Singapore, a new law that protects consumers’ personal data will kick in from January 2013, and businesses will have up to 18 months to comply. Among other things, the Personal Data Protection Act will, for example, allow consumers to protect personal data such as NRIC numbers and mobile phone numbers, and to shield themselves from getting calls from banks and companies who want to sell them products and services. Also, the National Do-Not-Call Registry is to address the growing issue of unsolicited telemarketing calls and messages, and is expected to be ready for public sign-up in early 2014. Consequently, government intervention will help to prevent the problem of privacy intrusion from escalating and at the same time protect the interest of individuals.

The National Do-Not-Call Registry is to address the growing issue of unsolicited telemarketing calls and messages.

Protecting our Rights

In conclusion, we cannot ignore the fact that there will be higher degree of intrusion of privacy as new social media platforms encourage participation and interaction. It is inevitable that there will be higher degree of intrusion of privacy as there is lack of awareness of this problem and a higher degree of willingness to protect the individuals’ rights in engaging social media.

This article is contributed by Mr. Simon Ng, founder and principal JC GP tutor of Generalpaper.com.sg, who has 20 years of teaching experience. Currently, Mr. Simon Ng provides specialized GP Tuition and Economics Tuition. Please visit www.generalpaper.com.sg/gp-notes to read more of our JC General Paper articles.