Monday, August 8, 2011

Profile Pictures, Privacy & Peer Pressure

netiquette cloud
Netiquette Cloud

I hate my Drivers License picture, but I love my Avatar. Don't you hate it when you take a bad photo for your Drivers License, State ID, Yearbook, Work ID or any other picture identification that is required. It is common to hate forced photographs for profiles. At least that is what my Mom said when she tried to make me feel better about my picture. All my friends laugh at it.

Your social media profile picture is a little different than your Drivers License photo, but the concept is the same. Your profile picture in social media identifies you to the cybersphere. When someone sees your profile pic or avatar they should be able to identify who it is. This presents a whole new set of privacy issues that many people are not aware of.

No one likes their Drivers License photo, but everyone should Like your profile Pic or Avatar on your social media account because you have the power to change it. Facebook profile pictures can be up to 180 pixels wide and 540 pixels long. Use this information to make sure your pic or avatar looks good within the boundaries. Photoshop it if you have to.

Is it good netiquette to use a picture or an avatar for your social media profile?

Kids should not use pictures for their profiles because it exposes them to the world without proper protection. It is bad netiquette for parents or teachers to allow their kids and students to post pictures on the internet. Adults have to decide for themselves if posting a real picture of themselves on the internet is something they want to do. 

Everyone has to find their own balance of online anonymity and public stardom, it is proper internet etiquette. Personally, I do not want my fifteen minutes of fame to come from a profile pic. It is bad netiquette to post fake profiles with their real pictures because it may expose you as a liar, cheat, and fraud.

In a recent research project by Alessandro Acquisti, Ralph Gross and Fred Stutzman of Carnegie Mellon University 31% of 25,000 kids photographed with a web cam were identified by their Facebook Profile pictures. They also identified fake profiles from dating sites with the same technology by cross referencing the pictures.

Should we think twice about photographs?

It is time to start thinking twice about allowing someone to take a picture of you doing anything because it can get posted on the internet. Once a picture is posted on the internet it can be tagged and be used to positively identify you because of the new facial recognition capabilities of computers. That is why it is bad netiquette to tag friends in photos.

In the same study mentioned earlier, researchers were able to predict the first five digits of a persons social security number 27% of the time. This is possible because the first five digits represent a code for the city and state you were born in. The first three digits represent the state you were born in and the the next two represent the city.

I am not sure what the Law has, would, or can say about this now or what it will say about it in the future, but it seems like an invasion of privacy.

The police are the only ones who should be using this technology in my opinion, but they probably aren't because they are philosophically fat and lazy. Facebook and Google are because they are fit and innovative, technically speaking. In conclusion, I recommend using an avatar for your profile pic, but it is up to you to decide.

David Chiles
Principles of Netiquette

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