Posts Tagged ‘privacy’


Snapchat snafu serves as an important reminder

Snapchat logoToday, many Snapchat users are no doubt gnawing their nails over the clothing-sparse selfies and booze-infused party pics they shared on assumptions of privacy. They’re wondering whether insulting memes and embarrassing explanations will result.

They’re probably kicking themselves over believing Snapchat was different from other social sites, and kicking themselves again for ignoring the reality of digital secrecy — that there really is no such thing.

On Thursday, Snapchat, the mobile messaging service that distinguished itself by guaranteeing all of its clients’ sharing was time-limited and disposable, agreed to settle Federal Communications Commission charges that it could not deliver on that guarantee. The settlement comes despite insinuations and accusations that the guarantee lacked legitimacy from the start.

As punishment, Snapchat must restate its privacy goals and live up to them while under federal surveillance for the next 10 years. No monetary penalty was announced, but in our fast-moving digital world the surveillance period is tantamount to living with a parole officer for two lifetimes, and trying to sneak past the guard could invite a fatal smack in the wallet.

Snapchat apologized in brief on its blog, alleging that some of the FTC’s charges were addressed well before Thursday’s announcement and concluding its mea culpa by saying, “We are devoted to promoting user privacy and giving Snapchatters control over how and with whom they communicate. That’s something we’ve always taken seriously and always will.”

But promises are made to be broken, and a tech startup’s erstwhile intent lacks armor against those who merely feign concern for anyone’s social well-being. The Snapchat snafu thus serves as yet another piquant reminder that a person’s secrets are best protected by their owners and not by anyone who’s capable of putting a dollar value on indiscretion.

And so, the reminders go out again, to journalists and non-journalists alike:

  • Don’t trust your privacy to anything digital.
  • Don’t consider any kind of social networking to be a secret conversation. Your first clue? It has the word “social” is its name.
  • Don’t talk to people online in ways you wouldn’t talk to them in person.
  • Don’t share digital data unsecured or unencoded.
  • Don’t think Snapchat’s apology amounts to an epilogue on this story.

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David Sheets is a freelance writer and editor, Region 7 director, and past-president of SPJ’s St. Louis Pro chapter. Reach him by e-mail at dksheets@gmail.com, on Twitter at @DKSheets, on Facebook and LinkedIn.

GlowTrend joins growing list of social networking sites

If you’ve noticed some nudging and elbowing lately in cyberspace, it may be due to the crowded social networking field making room for yet another potential player.

That player is called GlowTrend, and though it looks and feels like Facebook, founder Michael Wellman Jr. promises much more.

“I wanted a social site that would bring everything that’s good in other social media sites into one place and still be able to work with the other places,” Wellman said in a news release Tuesday. “That’s why we let you connect to GlowTrend through the other major social media sites.”

Yes, GlowTrend intends to be all things to all comers, Besides incorporating thumbs-up “likes,” friend suggestions, an instant messenger, company pages, and an interactive event calendar, a la Facebook, GlowTrend also intends to serve as an iTunes-type music storefront, where musicians can upload and sell their own works, a Google Plus-inspired video chat interface, and a Craigslist-kind-of classifieds section that ostensibly would help the site generate income, among other features.

Meanwhile, a mobile app is in development, Wellman says.

The site used to be called “MyFaceZone” until Wellman decided to put more distance between his site’s identity and that of his chief rival. Though the official launch came Tuesday, GlowTrend has been gaining fans since the domain name went live in June.

And despite the official launch, a few kinks remain. Wellman’s own GlowTrend page contained more troubleshooting announcements than social interactions. (The site’s servers nestle near Wichita, Kan.)

“Sorry for the delay everyone for the photo issue,” the Wasilla, Alaska, native wrote regarding a days-long glitch in uploading profile photos. “We are trying to get resolved. You can still import (other) photos.”

GlowTrend’s privacy policy promises little better than other social sites, saying no personal information will be sold, though allowing that member content will be seen as “aggregated demographic information” worth sharing with “business partners, trusted affiliates and advertisers.”

But this is Wellman’s third try at launching a social network, he says. Maybe now he has it all figured out.

David Sheets is a former content editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, a candidate for Region 7 director, and past-president of SPJ’s St. Louis Pro chapter. Reach him by e-mail at dksheets@gmail.com, on Twitter at @DKSheets, on Facebook and LinkedIn.

 

 

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