Facebook is to be used by the British Government in a bid to deal with terrorism. People often ask “who is looking at my Facebook page?” – well now we know, Gordon Brown’s henchmen. They plan to monitor every conversation on Facebook because it is “needed to tackle crime gangs and terrorists”. Now forgive me for being picky – but where is their evidence for this assertion? Did the 9/11 attackers use Facebook to co-ordinate their efforts? Did the July bombers in London use Facebook? Not that I know of. Did the world’s biggest bullion robbery get planned via Facebook? Not according to the coverage of the case. Did Madoff conduct his gigantic fraud via Facebook? You get my drift.
It doesn’t mean, of course, that terrorists and criminals do not use Facebook; it just suggests that the Home Office claim is weak, very weak. Already your every phone call and email is now monitored by the British Government. Now they want to see what you are up to on social networking sites.
Are you surprised? Probably not – after all, the UK population is one of the most heavily monitored group of people anywhere in the world. There are an estimated 4.2m CCTV cameras in the UK; that means that one in five CCTV cameras in the World are taking pictures in Britain. Even repressive regimes have less monitoring. Maybe they know that CCTV doesn’t actually reduce crime – indeed in some areas of the UK crime has increased since the installation of CCTV.
The Home Office knows that CCTV has little effect – after all, it has done the studies which show almost negligible impact. The Home Office also knows that monitoring what we do online has had no impact on crime reduction or been useful in anti-terrorism. So why do they persist in increasing their monitoring of us all?
PR – public relations. They are pandering to the “Daily Mail” attitude which they perceive as important in getting votes. Being seen to be doing “something” is more important than actually doing something, so they think.
But should you worry? No. Ignore it, forget it, just carry on as normal. After all everything you do on Facebook and other social networking sites is already monitored – by everyone who uses Facebook. What you do online is public. Every blog you write, every Tweet you send and every forum comment or discussion you enter into can be seen by anyone, anytime. Forget the Government monitoring you – think instead about your customers, potential customers or your staff. They too can monitor what you do.
Are you happy that your customers can see your holiday snaps of you in a drunken giggle? Are you pleased that your staff can see your swearing rants on some discussion group? Are you willing for potential customers to see your sexual activity in some chat room? All of this can be seen – nothing is private.
Your reputation will determine your future much, much more than the Government mistaking you for a terrorist. The risks of being snooped on by the Government are low; the risks of being snooped on by customers, employers and staff are huge. Make sure that everything you do online you are happy for anyone to see.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+