Pinterest and Privacy


Named as one of Time Magazine’s 50 Best Websites  of 2011, Pinterest is the buzzword site in the social media realm. One of the fastest independent websites to ever cross the 10 million user milestone, Pinterest’s daily users have increased 145% since the beginning of 2012.  A virtual “pinboard,” the site lets its users share all the beautiful things they find on the web. People can use their pinboards to plan events, decorate their homes, and organize their favorite recipes. It a visual escapade, online. But like any social network, it is all fun and games until we consider the privacy implications. So how and does Pinterest infringe on our privacy?

Public pins

Well pinboards are public and there is no way around it. Any pinterest user (or even non-pinterest users for that matter) can view your pinboard.  I signed up for the site to see what it was all about and was discouraged when I learned that you need to link your Pinterest account to either your Facebook or Twitter, which means that once you sign up, all of your data from either of these networks is connected to Pinterest. I linked it with my Facebook and quickly learned that I was automatically following the pinboards of every one of my Facebook friends who had created a Pinterest account. I didn’t opt into this; it was done for me. Additionally, all of those people who I inadvertently followed, were now following me.

Elizabth Luper from The Social Workplace was, like me, not pleased by this feature. She writes, “It turns out that when I used my Facebook account to create my profile, Pinterest accessed my personal information to automatically have me start following common connections. In my book, Pinterest broke a basic tenet of online privacy: to not invasively use my online information.”

Copyright concerns

In addition to the lack of privacy settings, Pinterest has also come into the spotlight for copyright infringement. Jessica Pages of Culture Map explains that social sharing site gets into trouble because it’s a “contradiction.” Pinterest defines itself as a site that “lets you organize and share the beautiful things you find on the web.” Yet, Pages cites the “Legal and Copyright” information from Pinterest, which states: “You agree not to do any of the following: Post, upload, publish, submit, provide access to or transmit any Content that: (i) infringes, misappropriates or violates a third party’s patent, copyright, trademark, trade secret, moral rights or other intellectual property rights, or rights of publicity or privacy.”

PC World explains the serious implications of these copyright laws and it appears that Pinterest’s large user base bares all of the responsibility, as the network states its a user’s duty to obtain the right to pin and image before it appears on the network. This has sprung up a lot of controversy. What do you think?

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Jillian Ryan

Jillian Ryan is PRIVATE WiFi's Director, Brand Communications and Social Strategy. With a passion for writing, the web, and fast-paced information exchanged via social networks, Jillian is also concerned about the ramifications of putting your life details and personal data into cyberspace. Follow her on Twitter: @Writing_Jillian.

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