I always find these discussions regarding journalistic ethics extremely interesting. With so many of my classmates holding a degree or extensive work experience in journalism, I feel a little lost in the crowd (considering I have neither a degree nor any experience in journalism). What is most interesting to me is the difference in opinions regarding ethics between those who work in journalism, and those who do not.

To me (the non-journalist), a private social media should be off limits to journalists who are seeking information or a scoop. However, a person who shares information publicly online is essentially waiving their right to any argument on why that information should now be private. I think part of being a good journalist is knowing when to respect the privacy of the subjects and how to approach stories in a respectful way (as in the lecture example of a murder investigation).

I keep tabs on my privacy settings on social sites pretty regularly. I also take it a step further by not posting anything personal or information that I do not want public – regardless of the privacy settings. On certain social sites, like Facebook, I post almost nothing. Other sites, like Instagram, where I jointly post with my business brand, I never share anything that I would not want made public. For example, I never add a location to my photos or add them to my photo map. This is partly because I never think to do so, and also because I do not want people to know my location. I have many followers that are not people that I personally know, and that is a risk that I am not willing to take.

As a general rule of thumb for reporters, I believe that private social media profiles should remain private. However, all social media users should operate under the knowledge that nothing is private once it is online – and that accepting friend requests from strangers compromises the privacy of your accounts, regardless of the settings.

Do you accept friend requests from strangers on your personal social sites?

Do you adjust your privacy settings to control what strangers or acquaintances can see (i.e. limited profile settings)?

Do you have any examples (personal or not) of journalists blurring the ethical lines online in order to get a story?


2 thoughts on “Privacy

  1. You wrote: “I think part of being a good journalist is knowing when to respect the privacy of the subjects and how to approach stories in a respectful way”. I think this is a very interesting thought.

    Can I ask what you think social networks like Facebook can do to make more users aware of the control they have over privacy? i.e. settings.

  2. Hi Justin, I think social media sites can continually update their users on privacy issues and updates. Occasionally I will get an email from Facebook that tells me that there have been updates, but I never read them. I think the challenge is finding a way to ensure that people read the updates. Maybe making a mandatory click through upon logging in that goes through the security and privacy terms. Or maybe an annual mandatory update of all your security settings, so that you are frequently checking back in on what you are allowing others to see. I believe that making sure people are aware of their settings is key.

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