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The Internet is not always public, there is a wide spectrum separating private communication from public communication on the Internet.
Users should be aware of what happen on their online content. They have to be careful with what they publish about themselves and what they don’t. They must be aware of the fact that the information published may be used in different purposes by different actors.
Social networks are a great opportunity for collecting data for marketing purposes.
A lot of what is happening now on the Internet is illegal in most countries.
Regarding youth attitude towards the data they make public on the Internet and towards their privacy, most of them are not very much aware about what may happen with their data; those that have had problem with social netwroks are the ones that are skeptical about privacy on the Internet.
The range of issues related to new social media is very broad. Three of them are particularly important: the notion of privacy and data protection (privacy is a wider concept), freedom of expression and the problem of different jurisdiction and the ownership of the content (mainly user generated content).
Education issues and literacy are viewed as very important aspects when it comes to people awareness about their online privacy. But there have been many discussions about this for a long time and very few measures taken. Media literacy is not enough; some innovative measures should be taken. For example, with regard to the problem of the terms of services that users must agree when entering a social network, which are often difficult to understand by users, the providers should organize a better feed back process, making their terms of reference more user friendly and flexible.
Young people become addicted with social networks. Even if they are aware of the privacy risks, they would choose to go on with taking part in these communities. It is quite difficult to educate young people on how to behave while online; they would rather learn by themselves.
At the European level, the European Union and the Council of Europe must take several measures in order to deal with the issue of profiling. The European Commission has drafted framework principles for network providers, which could serve as starting point in addressing this issue. On the other side, the Council of Europe will continue its work on standards, with the aim of defining standards on accessibility of social networks (a sort of guidelines on terms of services). Media literacy and participation courses should be included in all level of educations, both formal and non-formal. Also, dynamic identity governance projects should be established with the aim of granting users the right to validate the content .
There are three important principles that need to be taken into account during the debate on privacy and social networks:
- ownership of personal data: although owners of the social networks use to some extend the data made available by users, these data belong to the users;
- transparency: users have to understand the term of services and to be aware of what is happening with their data;
- the rule of law: there is a need for a uniform rule of law.