Funnily enough, this was the question that came up at a workshop on social technology strategy, which I ran to coincide with the publication of “Social Business Strategy.” To put it into context, we were discussing the development of social media policy guidelines and how secure Facebook is as a social network. One of the participants was suggesting that Facebook can be secure because you can restrict the content to be visible to just your friends. At this point another participant jumps in with this wonderful one-line response:
“Yeah, but you are only as secure as your dumbest friend!”
We know a chain is only as strong as the weakest link, and in social network terms the weak link is the friend with the worst privacy settings and personal security. While we may think we know who our friends are, we never really know how well they manage their personal online privacy and security. With increasingly intrusive access policies being adopted by social network technology providers, we are all potentially increasing our vulnerability without knowing it. Take for example the case of the high school teacher Dr. June Talvitie-Siple who lost her job because she posted comments on her Facebook page that she thought were private. After her comments were discovered by parents she was quickly forced to resign.
Even though Facebook is providing its members with greater control over who sees personal information and how it is used, our social network will only ever be as secure as our dumbest friend, and that's a scary thought!
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