Written with Cynthia Wilkerson, National Network to End Domestic Violence
For the past month Facebook's privacy woes have been in the news from the recent cover article in Time to many local outlets.
For survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking, the availability of information about consumer habits may be the least of their worries. As people of all ages are getting connected through FB and other social networking sites, these forums can provide a lifeline and access to resources for survivors who are often isolated and alone. However, when Facebook changes default settings so that personal information is shared without users’ consent, the company compromises the safety of those working to return to normalcy after living with violence. For instance, for survivors who have ended relationships with abusers and have taken steps to limit the availability of their personal information, unannounced changes in privacy settings can put them at risk for harassment and further violence.
As advocates we are quickly becoming experts regarding technology safety to help survivors navigate the internet and other systems in ways that help them find the information and resources they need. As media commentators, users and technology experts continue to analyze, discuss, and lament the impact of decreasing controls over our privacy, we must consider the potential harm and advocate for a system that protects us all.