Privacy: Does social media infringe upon a human right?


I recently took part in a workshop with the topic of discussion being the benefits of social media (no surprise there!). The ages of the individuals sat around the table varied from those that will have sat and watched in awe at the moon landing to those that could only just remember the Brit Pop era.

We began with the informal introductions and reasons as to why social media has made such a significant impact on the way organisations operate, but as the discussion moved forward, an interesting theme began to emerge: Privacy.

The issue was raised that the internet has removed people’s right to privacy and as a result this can cause untold damage to someone’s reputation, especially if personal information or images about an individual were seen by clients.   As a result, Facebook and similar sites were not always beneficial to an individual or organisation.

I was surprised that individuals who had come to a workshop about the benefits of social media would be so critical of its uses, and not take into account the basic options online that allow for certain element of privacy, but my main thoughts focused on: Was social media really impinging on their privacy? And did they even have a right to it at all?

Let’s face it, privacy is a socially constructed concept; hundreds of years ago (depending on your social status) people didn’t complain about ‘personal space’ – it was one bath a year and everyone tucked up in the same bed. Today’s society focuses moreso on the individual rather than the collective; that is until that introduction of social media.

When I have a moment to spare and I want to know what my friends are up to, I’ll tap my iphone app and go straight to my Facebook account. Now, do I really want to know that someone has been unable to scrape together the deposit for their first home? Or that someone else is drunk? Or that someone has broken up with their long-term love and is heartbroken? Probably not, but those that post the information obviously feel that the social constraints that would have once prevented them from discussing money etc. have been broken down by this new wave of communication. Where has ‘privacy’ gone?

I have always believed that what the information that is freely available on the internet is controlled – in the vast majority of cases – by yourself, and therefore you have the capability to manipulate that to determine how people perceive you. If you want to be portrayed as a happy-go-lucky individual, then by all means post pictures of yourself on Facebook enjoying nights out and trips abroad with no restrictions as to who can view them.

Facebook and all other forms of social media are fantastic platforms to allow your business to grow organically with the right SMS (social media strategy) that are evidence of the evolution of privacy, merely a culturally determined ideal.

Adam Thorndike

Adam Thorndike is our resident PR expert that currently works as a freelance PR consultant to numerous businesses through Cookie PR. Adam specialises in both traditional and digital PR services, including social media.

If you need any help with your PR requirements then dont hesitate to get in touch with him via


1 thought on “Privacy: Does social media infringe upon a human right?

  1. I suppose the broader question is not whether you would wish to see the personal activities of others but whether you are happy to see your personal activity shared by large corporations and whomever would wish to pay for that data.

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