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Will Social Networking suffer perfect storm?

The Official guidance (opens in new tab) issued today by the Information Commissioner whose office oversees how data is created, maintained and used across UK, is the latest sign of the growing uneasiness associated with social networking sites like Facebook, Myspace or Bebo.

The ICO deputy commissioner, David Smith, said: "The cost to a person's future can be very high if something undesirable is found by the increasing number of education institutions and employers using the internet as a tool to vet potential students or employees."

Like a bad tattoo or a piercing done during a drunken night, data (including comments and pictures) (opens in new tab)left randomly on your social networking page could come back to haunt the owner years later.

Many people are unaware that sites like Facebook tend to keep their users' data even after they have decided to leave the site and even more worrying is that other people, even strangers, might provide information about an individual without the consent or knowledge of the latter.

This was highlighted in a Channel 4 investigation (opens in new tab) which found out that one of their viewers was unable to get rid of the information related to him on Facebook.

Teenagers and young adults are particularly vulnerable as they tend to open up and provide more of their personal data voluntarily to social networking websites.

An executive at Facebook acknowledge that they are still learning valuable lessons over privacy.

Mike Butcher from Techcrunch UK (opens in new tab), wonders whether we are not going to experience a backlash against organisations like the Government and firms like Facebook who make a living out of managing the privacy of their users/citizens.

Désiré Athow

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.