The boundaries of privacy
I had a rather unpleasant surprise today when I found out that one of my “friends” had shared some of my personal Facebook posts with my current boss. Given the privacy settings of my posts I presume this was done by the said person physically showing their screen. I was absolutely mortified to discover this infringement on my privacy but was also very angry and upset by this blatant abuse of my trust.
I am very picky around who I friend on my personal Facebook account (including never accepting friend requests from work colleagues) and that is precisely so that I do not have to feel like I have to censor what I write. My friends know that I share very personal information, whether it be around my health or my love life, and to find that one of them thought it would be appropriate to share this insight into my private life with my employer is disgusting. In fact I actually even have a “disclaimer” on my Facebook page to flag the personal and private nature of my posts. Needless to say said “friend” is no longer a friend in my book … if I ever find out who it was.
Now there is plenty of debate around privacy, and expectations for privacy, in social media, and some would question whether it was stupid of me to post personal things to my Facebook page if I am concerned about other people reading these posts. I push back on this though as I believe the right to privacy exists just as much online as it does offline. Platforms like Facebook provide the option of restricting who I share my posts with and I trust my friends to respect that. The fact that a friend has abused that trust says more about that person than social media.
Despite my beliefs on the right to privacy I would still be cautious about posting anything that could get me into trouble – but this is not my point here. The content that was shared was not in anyway related to work but related to my personal life and related to information that I like to share to with my friends, and which my friends like to hear about. If it were public content or content I was happy to share with a wider audience I would have changed my settings. To me it is a sad day that I feel like I can no longer stay connected with my friends across the world because one person decided that I do not have a right to privacy, despite my clear disclaimer on what I post to my page. The sharing of private content from a private and closed social media account is akin to photo-coping someone’s private letter or recording a private phone call and sharing that around. It can happen but one does not expect a friend to do that.
There is though a broader issue here too. I mentioned that I share very personal health information on my Facebook page. Now I am actually very open about my health so I have less of an issue with someone sharing this – but for many people this is not the case. For many people private social media offers a very valuable resource to connect and talk with people about this very personal topic. I have been involved in supporting people with severe depression whose only outlet was their private Facebook account. For someone like this to find out that a “friend” has shared their highly private and sensitive posts with a member of the “public” could be devastating. For me again this highlights my beliefs that just because a person shares information digitally does not mean they automatically lose the right to privacy. Regardless of which channel or medium a person shares information – if it is in a private setting and clearly highly personal their right to privacy should be respected.
It therefore with heavy heart that I find myself now having to either censor my content, and no longer share my private news, or to start de-friending people. If whoever did this to me is reading this – thank you very much for abusing my trust in you and putting me in this situation. I hope it was worth it for you.