Generation MySpace

June 14, 2007 at 3:00 am Leave a comment

Came across an interesting essay in The Atlantic, (subscription needed) which paints a pretty grim picture of online worlds, the predators who stalk the digital realm and the innocents who often fall prey. Now, I must start off by admitting that I have a MySpace page, not that I do much with it. In fact, I have a couple of friends, Tom and Velvet (don’t ask!) – not sure how they became my friends but there they are in my network, which sadly only has two friends. I’ve also dabbled in SecondLife but frankly I don’t get it; bored me to tears. Obviously, I’m getting way too long in the tooth:)-

Anyway, I’m interested in these digital spaces because of the …(warning: pet topic coming up)…privacy implications. So the essay in The Atlantic piqued my curiosity. Journalist, Caitlin Flanagan, masqueraded as a predator – she visited MySpace and began tracking the activities of a local high school girl (“Jenna”). How easy was it to stalk a young, innocent teen, happily sharing photos and gossip with friends on MySpace? The answer: terribly, terribly easy. Here’s what Flanagan discovered about the personal life of “Jenna”:

  • from her MySpace page – information about Jenna’s boyfriend; times, dates and locations of her outings with friends;
  • Jenna’s high school graduation date. Flanagan even went to the school on graduation day;
  • once Jenna went off to college, Flanagan was able to review her online class schedule and used Mapquest to find the location of the college, so she could be waiting outside her French class in just 2 hours.

There’s much more in the essay, but you get the gist. The MySpace generation has a different attitude to privacy – I did a post on this recently. For them, privacy is an illusion. And now that we have Google Street View, well frankly, walking down the street is a privacy hazard IMHO. But it’s the dark side of this that I get really concerned about. If it was so easy for a journalist to track Jenna and learn about the intimate details of her daily existence, then all the whackos out there are having a field day. Lots of benefits to MySpace sure – connectivity, circle of friends, sharing of news and photos – but the downside is that you trade in your privacy and you’re just not sure what you might get in return.

And while I’m on this subject of privacy – back to the talking CCTV cameras that will bark orders at you. Reading Borough Council in the UK, in a smart move aimed at sucking youth into the surveillance society so they’ll never know what privacy actually is – is running a contest giving young people the glorious opportunity to be “the voice” of the talking cameras. Hopefuls are being encouraged to compose rap lyrics of four lines. The lead councillor for Reading said: “This will be an exciting addition to the CCTV unit…Talking CCTV will bring us right up to date“. I’m sure.


Entry filed under: Education and Awareness, MySpace, Privacy.

World’s cultural heritage endangered Data information knowledge

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