Online Privacy and Why Pinterest Should “Binterested”

736aa  online privacy redbutton Online Privacy and Why Pinterest Should “Binterested”

For once in my life I’m skeptical. And for you die-hard Pinterest fans, I hope you’ll bear with me as I explain my current disinterest in Pinterest.

I can’t get my sister-in-law to interact with me on Facebook. But she freaking LOVES Pinterest. And has been trying to get me to use it for a couple of months. And given the recent chatter on Social Media Today, I finally broke down this past Saturday and joined using my Facebook account to establish my Pinterest profile.

Over the course of the weekend, I noticed that I was receiving e-mails that “so and so” was now following me on Pinterest. At first I thought, WOW, I’m super duper popular. But then reality set in and I decided to see what was up. A quick call to my sister-in-law let me know that she received an e-mail that I was now following her on Pinterest and so she followed me back. My reaction? Wow, I never asked to follow you. In fact, I didn’t ask to follow anybody.

This is what I found out: when I used my Facebook account to create my profile, Pinterest used my personal information to automatically have me start following common connections.

For a social media geek you could say that I don’t necessarily adhere to traditional views on privacy. I say this because I’m “out there.” EVERYWHERE. In fact, when I usually bring up online privacy, most people who know me have a “YOU are talking about privacy??” reaction. But here’s the thing. I care about online privacy because I’m so out there and it’s critical that I have the ability to personalize and control what information I share and with whom I share it.

In my book, Pinterest broke a basic tenet of online privacy: To not invasively use my online information.

Connecting your Facebook account should either be an easier method for authentication (verifying who you are) or to “suggest” friends to follow. I appreciate the ease of use that Pinterest is attempting to provide, but when it comes to deciding who I follow or don’t follow, that should be at my manual discretion. (I should note, that you also have the option to establish your profile using your Twitter account and I’m told that the autofollow doesn’t happen using Twitter.)

A quick Google search shows me that other individuals have encountered this same issue:

“The warning that I will give out about Pinterest is that they are not very good at maintaining your privacy when it comes to respecting your wishes about how much they share from your other social networking sites (you have to use Facebook to open an account).”
How to Unfollow People on Pinterest, Infobarrel

“I thought pinterest would be a cool way for me to categorize great content from webpages so I could stop emailing links to myself. I thought my page would be a nice blend of my and other nerds’ (whom I followed by choice) repositories of great info. As it turns out, I’m now following 78 women and 3 men against my will.”

“Pinterest has really bad privacy settings (or none) and I hate that. If you find a forum for pinning photos or links, that is private (like as private as an email account or something of that nature) let me know. I don’t like the automatic follow and following. I don’t like that I can’t link to articles, as well as, photos. I would like to use it as my own personal links library, not as another social media platform.”
So, let me tell you why I dislike Pinterest…and how to unfollow people on Pinterest, Josh’s Blog

In today’s world online privacy is critical. So here are some quick suggestions that I have for Pinterest:

  1. Use Facebook information to suggest friends to follow, but do not automatically follow them on my behalf.
  2. Create privacy settings as there currently are none. At a minimum, I should be able to create contributor groups and then establish individual viewing permissions for each of my boards for those groups.
  3. Establish a method that allows people to unfollow connections in bulk. Currently, you have to unfollow people individually.
  4. Err on the side of restricting information first and then allow the user to decide what information should be shared.

Online privacy is difficult to manage and I don’t envy budding social networks like Pinterest because they have many factors to consider. The relation between privacy and a person’s social network is multi-faceted. In certain occasions we want information about ourselves to be known only by a small circle of close friends, and not by strangers. In other instances, we are willing to reveal personal information to anonymous strangers, but not to those who know us better. (Information Revelation and Privacy in Online Networks, Carnegie Mellon University)

This is a painful lesson that Facebook learned: the importance of user-controlled privacy settings. Many people have voiced frustration as Facebook has released new versions. But the value in what they’ve done is that they’ve become the only site that allows you to personalize who and what people see all the way down to the individual news items or even individual photos in your albums. It’s been worth the pain for me.

It is absolutely not my intent to lessen the current excitement and chatter Pinterest has been generating, or the value that it introduces to the social networking community. But I think it’s important to call out the importance of online privacy. And please, don’t get me wrong. I’m still really excited about the possibilities of Pinterest. But, unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to really try it out because I’m currently in the tedious process of unfollowing people.. one by one.

I’m interested in knowing if anyone else had a similar experience? And I’m also interested in collecting more online privacy control suggestions for Pinterest from those people who have actively been using it. Please feel free to post your comments below.




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