Social media use is divided to the purely personal communication with friends and family and to the purely professional communication with colleagues and customers (Boyd, 2007). The blending of public/private lives, discussions relating to ethical use of social media can quickly lead into unending web of controversies (Vallor, 2015).
The social media ethical dilemmas are that they were designed for social interactions, which in the past for most individuals was considered as a private and protected space (Spinello, 2011). Though, the landscape of social media makes these interactions accessible to a broader audience. When something becomes accessible from a wider audience, then the individual has no longer control over it. This ethical leads to the following questions: 1) who views our social media information, 2) in which way others could access our information, 3) which is the purpose of using social information and 4) how do individuals judge the social media identity. In order for individuals to better understand this ethical dilemma, the following parts provide a short analysis of those questions.
Who views our information?
A huge dilemma nowadays, is that if it is adequate for a “third” person outside someone’s social network to access his/her personal data. Though, someone could say that when something is online could be accessible from a wider audience, it’s yet a question of if that audience should be an open audience or not. Most of the time conversations taking place through social networks are targeted to selected groups of people, such as friends, colleagues or relatives. So, those who are outside of this targeted audience and access online information might violate individuals’ privacy.
In which way others could access our information?
How an individual could access social media information of someone else is a significant ethical problem. It is way to access social media information of an individual who particularly permit access to them. Nevertheless, it is not the same problem if that information will be accessed from a member of individual’s network, like a classmate, a colleague, or a potential competitor for job. Many individuals stated that information that are freely given to audiences, are welcoming inspections regardless of how it is exposed. On the other hand, others claim judgment should be done only to the information that they allowed access.
Which is the purpose of using social information?
Another ethical issue it the purpose of using social media information for other social reasons. As most of the social media platforms were created for socializing, many individuals disagree with the case of access social media information for other reasons except social interactions. There is a huge ethical dilemma of whether it is correct to judge others accessing their social media accounts for school enrollments, employee selection or any other decisions.
How do individuals judge the social media identity?
Judging someone’s character, professionalism, or other personal characteristics from data accessed from social media profiles is a difficult process. Although online profiles might give information about person’s real identity, no one could be sure whether they are accurate or not. For instance, it is not easy for someone to judge through a Facebook account, if a person is an alcoholic or a racist, there is no such a way find that through his/her profile. The number of photos with alcohol does not necessary means that the person is an alcoholic.
Boyd D. Social network sites: public, private, or what? The Knowledge Tree. 2007;13(May)28. http://kt.flexiblelearning.net.au/tkt2007/?page_id528.
Spinello, R.A., 2011, “Privacy and Social Networking Technology,” International Review of Information Ethics, 16: 41–46.
Vallor, S. (2015). Social Networking and Ethics. Retrieved April 16, 2016, from http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ethics-social-networking/