1 com

The pros and cons of Social Networking Sites - A Literature Review.

We are currently living within the Social Networking generation, where keeping in contact with your family and friends has never been easier, with a few moments on a social networking site you can be updated with every one's latest news, photos videos and opinions online. Despite this being a revolutionary tool that was created with only positives in mind, a place for building trust on a global scale(W3C,2009) the online world we know and live with means that Social Networking also has its cons.

It can be considered that with the use Social Networking sites, comes ignorance to one’s personal security and personal profiling. With the World Wide Web, and what is known as Web 2.0. Users of such websites as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and others; openly upload personal and sometimes private information to what is really  an open source of infinite data, that whether with consent or not, is available to almost anybody else that has access to the Internet. This in itself creates an extremely large security and privacy issue for all users involved.

This is shown by the case of MySpace(NYTIMES.COM, 2009) which addresses a large issue of sex offenders.  MySpace was found to have 90,000 registered sex offenders holding accounts on their website. Myspace also holds a large demographic of under 18 users. These statistics alone present a large con with Social Networking. MySpace and all other social networking sites state that they will remove any members showing predatory tendencies towards minors and or any members at all. A recent example of this is Twitter being scrutinised for not taking action against sex offenders on its site. Twitter released a statement insisting that they “dealt with complaints as quickly and thoroughly as possible”, And that it “plans within the next few months to have a team working 24 hours a day in order to investigate complaints.”, (Buckler, 2012). It still leaves a large question as to how many sexual offenders, registered or not, have access to thousands of peoples profiles, photos, private information(sometimes, numbers, addresses and other locational information).

But then, there are pros to holding a Social Networking account. Many users are smart and aware when using the Internet, making their profiles extremely limited, and private to anyone that they have not given direct permission and access to.This allows such users to network amongst friends, family and colleagues, knowing that their information is secure and unobtainable by most other Internet users. With this, Users can enjoy sharing and uploading, photo’s, and text, regarding their opinion, news, and comments. Users have the ability to, over time, build a record and a form of diary that can be reviewed and looked back on in years to come; creating a place of memories and social interaction.

But  enjoying a secure and private Internet environment is not always the case with some users, and this is normally due to no fault of their own.  Many social networking sites have default privacy settings. However, Facebook for example, is continually evolving both aesthetically and technologically, and with this has changed it's default privacy settings,  For example Facebook’s privacy settings have noticeably changed over the last 5 years, leaving a large amount of users profile information openly available to the online community. Using information from a graphical representation (McKeon, 2010), I will display the starting settings that were established with Facebook in 2005, and what the privacy settings became over time, resulting in a different set of standards in 2010.

According to McKeon (2010), in 2005 default privacy settings allowed only friends to view all information, other Facebook users to view limited information and non-Facebook users to have no access to any information at all. However in 2010 this default had transformed to allow friends, other Facebook users and non-Facebook users, to view everything on one’s Facebook profile, excluding contact information and your date of birth. This is almost opening anybody that is not consciously cautious with their privacy is open for many forms of attack, including aforementioned child abuse, and Identity Theft. Despite your contact information being hidden, using all other information available, an individual with the right skills including Social Engineering, and online information gathering, can create a full and extensive profile on you, which can leave you open and vulnerable to identity theft.  Bilge, Strufe, Balzarotti & Kirda(2009) launched successful automated identity theft attacks on real Facebook users, demonstrating that with the right skills and tools, Facebook users are vulnerable to such attacks. This only seems to show that Facebook’s administration team have progressively weakened their users security over only a few years.

At the same time it can be seen that privacy within some Social Networks, is not required, in some cases the opposite can have benefits.. I was asked to come along to Manchester University’s Computer Science Department, to help test, and give my perspective, as a Social Networking user and as one of generation that are submersed within this culture. The Social Networking site that they have been developing has been a collaboration with other teams, such as Southampton University’s e-Research department. The Social Network is www.myexperiment.org/, (still in it’s Alpha Stages) the site itself is standard practice in allowing members to add friends, family, to discuss, post images and opinions, but with a twist. It is designed to be used by an academic community, being used to share Scientific studies, results and detailed Work Flows. Members are asked to share, and spread their findings across the network, allowing free and open source information that can be used and adapted, teams and projects to be created, advancements in research to be made due to the coming together of many. I feel that this is a large positive of Social Networking, even though the site itself can be seen to appeal to a niche market of academics and professionals. The results of such a site, are boundless, users have free roam to express their knowledge in a friendly and open environment. Exactly what the World Wide Web and Web 2.0 were intended for.

A Con that we can all, even slightly, relate to is addiction. Internet addiction has been something heavily addressed for a while, covering anything from Online Gaming, to basic chat rooms but it now comes a time that Social Networking Sites are now a subcategory of Internet addiction. D. Karaiskos, E. Tzavellas, G. Balta, T. Paparrigopoulos(2010) Presented a Case study carried out on a 24-year-old woman indicating tell tell signs of addiction, that went as far as to her losing her job and spending most of her time at home checking her facebook news feed. The report states that she used the internet prior to social networking sites for up to 7 years, and felt no addiction until her introduction to facebook.  Any addiction can be looked upon as a con. Addictions can cause depression and anxiety, and an addiction that causes a user to remain indoors with no real social interaction in the real world; is something that needs to be looked into further.
Social Networking sites must consider that due to the evidence that Social Networking addiction is a real, and serious thing, implementation of limitations must be brought into place. By allowing the user, or their parents/guardian control over the amount of time they spend on networking sites could greatly decrease the threat of Internet and Social Networking addiction.

The Internet is growing, and Social Networking Sites can be traced to the main source of this growth, it’s an open world full of connections to people, that otherwise would have been alienated. Positives seem to flourish in the world of Web 2.0, especially for those who keep their information secure and monitor their online presence. However, Social Networks need to continue to address the threats of predatory online behavior and identity theft, whilst considering allowing some form of limitations to their users. As mentioned before, the Internet is an open world, and as in real society, there are those who will steal, lie and cheat. Ignorance to this, self preservation, and to ones online presence is a problem we all face, and a con for Social Networking Sites but in taking the necessary steps, these cons can be mostly avoided and the pros can be enjoyed.

Bilge, L., Strufe, T., Balzarotti, D., Kirda, E. (2009, April 20-24). All your contacts are belong to us: automated identity theft attacks on social networks. Paper presented at International World Wide Web conference. Retrieved from http://www2009.eprints.org/56/

Buckler, C. (11 January 2012). Twitter ‘failing’ on child abuse, CEOP watchdog warns. BBC News, Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-16508481

Karaiskos, D., Tzavellas, E., Balta, G., Paparrigopoulos, T. (2010). P02-232 - Social network addiction : a new clinical disorder?, European Psychiatry, Vol. 25, pp.855-855.

McKeon, M. 2010. The Evolution of Privacy on Facebook. Retrieved January 9 from http://www.mattmckeon.com/Facebook-privacy/

W3C, 2009. World Wide Web Consortium. [online] Available at: <http://www.w3.org/Consortium/mission#vision> [Accessed 8 January 2012].

Wortham, J. (3 Febuary 2009). MySpace Turns Over 90,000 Names of Registered Sex Offenders. New York Times, Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/04/technology/internet/04myspace.html
0 com

Exciting months/years

As I've said, I'm studying software engineering, and intend to specify towards level 5/6 of my course, this will mean learning a few programming languages. But with my intentions to undertake a few projects and webapp development, I'm going through the process of working out what languages I may need in order to fully achieve my goals. So far I plan to learn, or in a lot of the cases, further my knowledge and reinforce what I know.

Python, HTML5, CSS, Php,Java,Google Go,C++,C#, JavaScript, Haskell and Perl.

Wish me luck.
0 com

Back at University

Well, I've been back at uni for a few days now and it's all hands on deck. It's been hectic and exciting, I've decided to embark on some new projects with a friend from my course, which is going to involve learning the google go WebScript programming language. I'm looking forward to this, and I shall let you know what I learn, and what I think of the language. We've decided to go with The Golang rather than C++, after all, and maybe implement the C++ later on, my personal reason for this choice is, I've learnt and taught myself some C++ on the past, but Go, is a brand new language to me(seemingly similar to java though) and I'm looking forward to learning it.