Privacy is a major talking point when discussing the state of the online world. Companies like Facebook are villainized for retaining any and all data on its users. Moreover, Facebook is known for selling this data to third party advertisers. Amazon keeps similar data on its visitors and markets this data to outside companies.
Consumers online are becoming wary to these schemes. People value privacy, and many feel violated by the invasion of their personal data. As such, many individuals flock to “private” networks like Snapchat, Whisper, and Ello. But are these services truly private?
Snapchat, an immensely popular image sharing service used by over 1.55 billion individuals every day (according to Google), advertises privacy. Any image sent through the service can be set to “self-destruct” after a set period of time. However, CNN Money points out these are far from destroyed. Many of the images sent via the services are either left on a server or collected by a third-party application. “Snapchat isn’t doing enough to protect its software,” says CNN Money writer Jose Pagliery. “That’s why third-party apps can essentially hack its platform […] Snapchat hasn’t succeeded in convincing Apple and Google to keep what are essentially “Snapchat hacks” out of their app stores.” Clearly, the privacy of Snapchat is not so private after all.
Other image-sharing services like Whisper advertise “anonymous” posting. MakeUseOf writer Briallyn Smith explains Whisper posts are also never truly private. “All posts created on Whisper become the property of the company,” Smith writes, “and there is no guarantee that your secret won’t surface again in the future.” Once again, a private social network fails to succeed in being truly private.
Is there hope for a truly private social platform? Another network known as Ello thought so. In 2014, Ello arrived on the scene as a “Facebook killer.” The network sought to provide a safe, private environment for social interaction. Though the site seemed to succeed, its user base failed to grow. Gigaom writer Nathaniel Mott says Ello is, “essentially is so small it doesn’t and can’t compare to Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and other established social networks or anything that could be defined as an up-and-coming social app.” This begs the question: do people really want or need a private social network?
Facebook still boasts the largest user base of any social platform, and Snapchat’s user base is only growing. This is still happening regardless of the fact that people know these networks are far from private. In my opinion, there cannot be a truly private social network. Anything posted to the Internet is public – no matter what. There is no way to privatize content on the web. I think people know this whether they wish to admit it or not. That is why users still flock to Facebook and Snapchat, even with the privacy concerns.