PRIvacy or PriVACY? Either way, we must look out for ourselves

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Funny, yet true, cartoon (From

Funny, yet true, cartoon (From

Privacy: It’s something many of us worry about giving up too much of, especially in the social media age where we share the play-by-play of our vacation as it’s happening, give our location coordinates in our Twitter bio and share photos of our children even before they’re born.

I’ve recently checked my privacy settings on Facebook and Twitter, but I couldn’t tell you when it was (at least in the last six months). If they are set the way you want them, I wouldn’t really think you would need to check them more than quarterly (unless the social network you use had a privacy breach or something of that nature).

How do you check your privacy settings? I’m not here to tell you that. That’s why we have Google searches.

However, I will offer some suggestions that social networks can use to make it easier for their users to maintain their privacy, kind of similar to some suggestions I gave for easier-to-understand terms and conditions.

-Make it simpler. These settings shouldn’t be hidden from people. They should be easy to find. Like it or not, you are making a site that your grandmother will use (i.e.: Facebook) and she should be able to find how to tweak her privacy settings with no problem. In addition to making them easy to find, they should also be easy to read and understand (not a page with thousands of words on it).

-Remind people to check them. If you don’t remind or prompt a person to do something, chances are, they won’t do it (especially if it’s something as non-sexy as checking privacy settings).

-Give people the most private settings to start. People can always make their profiles more open if they want, but give them the most secure settings as a default.

Speaking of privacy, what if you want to reach out to someone you don’t know? What if that person doesn’t want to be found by people they don’t know. These are some issues that journalists can come across in the information-gathering process.

Justin went over this in lecture this week, revisiting a discussion we had several weeks ago about contacting a friend of a crime suspect via social media. I would say that it is OK to contact this person via social media, as long as you identify who you are upfront. If possible, it may be even better to call this person or physically go to their home. Contacting a person on Facebook is akin to knocking on their door, a tough job, but one a journalist still must do.

Now, if that person does grant you access behind the curtain and accepts your Facebook friend request after you’ve identified yourself as a journalist, the question is it ethical to republish material from a private social media space?

I think while you do technically have access to the material, asking permission will probably give an added level of protection as well as continue to build trust with that source. After all, trust is an important aspect when it comes to letting down that privacy wall.


British Airways, learn from KLM and have a 24/7 social media hub

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Desperate times call for desperate measures and apparently, that’s how Hasan Syed felt after British Airways lost he and his father’s luggage.

He bought a series of sponsored tweets in September 2013 (not really THAT long ago) so everyone could see his frustration with the airline:

Sponsored, for lots to see on Twitter.

Sponsored, for lots to see on Twitter.

In lecture this week, Justin asked us, ethically, what is the right thing for British Airways to do in response to this situation? I would venture to say that their customer service department shouldn’t have let the situation percolate to the point that Syed felt compelled to blast out a complaint Tweet.

But it happened, there’s no taking it back, or BA’s super-delayed response, which the company said was because the BA Twitter account is only manned from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. GMT. (BA, maybe you should invest in a social media hub like KLM!) Their next step was the right move (reaching out to Syed to solve the issue privately, off of social media). However, BA showed its continued social media ineptitude in the process. Check out this exchange between Syed and BA:

british airways syed

Ouch! Does BA know how to check if someone is following them?

Justin also asked us how British Airways should pacify Syed: complain to Twitter (no), grovel (no) or offer him compensation? You would think this last one would be the way to go, but Syed Tweeted just a day after his promoted tweets that he was “not interested in compensation.” I think that’s about right; I think that a man who spends $1,000 on promoting Tweets doesn’t really want money; he just wants his luggage back. And if he can’t get that, at least some competence on the part of the company in trying to locate the luggage.

If British Airways complained about the situation on Twitter, it would just make them look bad to Syed and all their other customers. And groveling to Syed would just make the airline look even more pathetic to Syed and all their other customers.

Turning the question on its head, was Syed ethical in his decision to put BA on blast like that? Granted, BA was probably not too pleased with the way it made them look, but Syed did what he felt he had to do. It all comes down to that age-old saying “the customer is always right.”

However, it would be interesting to know the ins and outs of Syed’s customer service situation with BA. Syed says he didn’t invent #complaintvertising, yet he puts other companies, like Square, on blast on Twitter. So why didn’t he take out ads against them. Like I said, it would be interesting to see/hear the private exchanges between Syed and BA to see if his actions were legit, or if he’s just a chronic complainer. What do you think?

Social media beyond my wildest dreams

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621575_10101255293832941_1168116338_oGreetings classmates and the World Wide Web!

If you would have told me when I was a high school newspaper intern 10 years ago that I would be embarking on a mass communications masters program that concentrates on social media, I would have said “what’s social media?”

As I went on to study magazine journalism at the University of South Florida, I couldn’t have imagined that our phones would become “smart” and would be able to bring us information anywhere, anytime – and in some cases, even push information to us through app alerts and breaking news texts. I surely couldn’t have imagined that I would one day be a web producer at a television station and pushing news alerts would become part of my regular job duties.

Sharing and gathering information has changed and it’s important to roll with those changes to stay relevant. Through working for news organizations over the past five-plus years, I have seen how Twitter and Facebook can be used for “crowd sourcing,” whether that’s using the platforms to find sources for stories or simply asking readers/viewers what they think about a certain story. I have also found that social media also allows people to give instant feedback on what we’re doing and even become our eyes and ears in the community, sending in pictures and messages so we can check out possible breaking news.

For me personally, social media has become a good way to stay in touch. The world is becoming more spread out and people want to feel connected, even when they are not physically close to each other. I have friends and family in Wisconsin, England and Taiwan (shout out to my friend Annie Liao at Yahoo!), but thanks to social media, specifically Facebook, I am able to be part of their day through their status updates. Likewise, I’m able to give them a glimpse into my day through my postings.

I do believe that social media is a powerful tool, but I think there is such a thing as “over sharing.” What do you think? For example, if I’m fighting with my husband, I don’t Tweet  or Facebook about it. Since I use my social accounts as kind of a personal/professional hybrid, I ask myself the question, “Am I going to be ashamed later on that I shared this?” Once in a great while, I do use my social networks for “venting,” but I find that I post something more productive if I sleep on it rather than posting in the heat of the moment.

As my stepdad tells me, “you can always improve,” so that is my thought process in entering this degree program. Am I doing pretty good with social media in my professional/personal life? Could I do a better job? Of course. I’ve placed a bet on myself and my future through this huge undertaking of continuing my studies. But I’ve done it knowing I will come out the other side a better person professionally and personally.