Privacy settings won't protect you, say experts

SINGAPORE - Using privacy settings will not necessarily protect you from online controversy, experts told The Straits Times.

While those who share inflammatory views on social websites may be able to restrict their initial post to just a handful of friends, there is nothing to stop it from being shared or re-tweeted.

And the message can still be seen by the public if someone takes a screenshot.

It effectively means that nothing posted on social media can be considered private.

"Don't post any status or comments that you aren't prepared for the world to see, even if you restrict access to a smaller group of people," said former Nominated MP Siew Kum Hong.

"There is no way to guarantee that what you post online won't end up being seen by everyone eventually."

The issue hit the headlines this week when Ms Amy Cheong, 37, was fired from her job as an assistant director at the National Trades Union Congress after she posted an expletive-laden Facebook rant about Malay weddings.

She apologised and took it down, but it was too late.

Screenshots of her original message had already gone viral.

Facebook's privacy policy means that short of making your post completely private - meaning only you can see it - there is no way to guarantee it will remain invisible to users who are not friends.

Media Literacy Council vice-chairman Carmee Lim told The Straits Times that the best way for people to protect themselves is to be more careful before hitting "send".

She said: "Users should always calm down before writing what they will eventually post on their pages, if they are upset."

Mr Siew added: "You have to understand well the nature of any platform that you make use of, and its privacy settings.

"It is safer to always assume that anything you post can and will be circulated publicly."

Mr Aaron Ng, an instructor at the National University of Singapore's Department of Communications and New Media, urged people to think about the consequences before putting up a post.

He added: "I am not advocating self-censorship, but if it is something you would not ordinarily say to a crowd using a loudspeaker, then don't post it online.

"It is actually more dangerous to say things online, because there is an audience out there, and you don't know who is looking at what you have to say."

Click on thumbnail to view (Photos: Internet, SPH, David Bowden, Sumadi Sarkawi)

pohian@sph.com.sg


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