Privacy, Transparency, and Social Media Controversy In My Own Back Yard


Apparently I have placed myself directly in the middle of a social media kerfuffle by claiming and posting pictures to a Facebook page for my community (a 500 acre, 66 family, cooperatively-owned tree farm and community association).

An (email) letter from me to my community:

“May 22, 2012

Dear Neighbors:

I realize some community members may be surprised by the Facebook page for Crystal Lake, Inc. As a twenty year resident (and former Board Member) of Crystal Lake, a student of social media at the University of Washington, and a corporate marketer by profession, I have more than a passing interest in this subject. I am currently involved in developing a social media plan for a Seattle non-profit organization as part of my social media class, and have been studying a variety of scholarly issues around social media, including privacy and transparency in corporate and non-profit communications.

Several months ago, I approached the Board because I discovered there was a Crystal Lake Facebook page already created, but it did not have an administrator. It had very little going on. I suggested to Chris [Board President] that it might make sense to take ownership of this page for the community before someone else did. Chris subsequently brought the issue to the Board. They gave me the green light to claim the page for our community, which I did, and I added myself and Chris as administrators. I updated the profile with some pictures and sent the link to the Board to review. I indicated in my email to the Board that the page was public (not private), so that everyone could “Like” it and enjoy posting pictures and having a dialog, even people who lived outside the community.

Note was made in the April Board minutes of the existence of the Crystal Lake Facebook page, and my name was given as a contact for residents who had input or comments or wished to contribute posts or pictures.

After reviewing the updated Facebook page, Chris let me know that the Board thought it was fine to go ahead and publicize it to the community. I took the opportunity at the Annual Meeting last Sunday to do so. I also restated then that if anyone had concerns about any of the pictures which I had posted up there, I would be more than glad to remove them.

I realize that some Crystal Lake community members are concerned about preserving the privacy and visibility of our community and its members. I believe, however, that most residents who use Facebook regularly are aware of how it works and how powerful a tool it can be for building community. This is certainly an issue of much debate, and there are always going to be arguments on both sides, however, I believe the benefits of a public Facebook page for Crystal Lake outweigh the disadvantages.

Users of Facebook understand that everything they put up on Facebook is public information. We also realize that a lot of personal information about us and our community is already available to corporations as well as the public – in great detail. The existence of our community is not a secret. Googlemaps and GPS systems make pictures of our streets and our homes easily locatable and viewable online. Personal information in great detail is accessible about all our individual purchasing habits, friends, finances and more. I think it is crucial for us as individuals to be aware of this, and to take a proactive position to manage both our personal image and information as well as that of our community. A community Facebook page is one way to do that. We are also a corporation, and having a Facebook page is increasingly the norm for most small businesses. I also believe a Facebook page will involve more young people in our community, help us communicate better with each other, and help us continue the traditions that make our community so special. With 800 million active users globally, Facebook is the most important electronic communications vehicle in modern society for both businesses and individuals.

Crystal Lake residents are not required to participate on the Facebook page. It is a completely voluntary platform. In fact, if you are not already on Facebook and have a profile, you won’t be able to participate on the Crystal Lake page, and no one will even know you are associated with it.

There are a lot of articles available on the internet that discuss the intersection of social media, community, and privacy. The one below by noted business and internet visionary, Don Tapscott, is one I found particularly insightful and balanced. He has studied inter-generational differences in the use of digital media (he coined the term “digital native”), and I believe he has a very well-considered perspective on this issue. A quote from the article is below, as well as a link to the full article:

“Other influential thought leaders like Tim O’Reiley (he coined the term Web 2.0) or Steward Brand (author of the Whole Earth Catalogue) defend an individual’s right to privacy. But they argue that the benefits of sharing personal information are becoming so beneficial to each of us and so widespread that we need to shift the discussion from what to share, to how to ensure the information we share is used appropriately.” – Don Tapscott

To read the whole article, click here:

Your friend and neighbor,


One Very Irate Neighbor’s Public Response Via Email to the Community, After Calling Me By Phone To Express Her Concerns:


Solveig misses the point of what has been done by creating a public Facebook page.  The fact that it appears that Chris  and the BOD [Board of  Directors] approved this may make this even worse.

Some of the issues that don’t seem to be addressed by Solveig are very important:

  1. In the Northshore school district parents must sign releases for all photos – even for the year book. While most might allow photos in a yearbook, many more would object when they discover that these photos are visible to 800 million Facebook users. How many women are trying to keep the location of their family secret from someone that they may have a restraining order against – or some other very valid reason?  I suspect that the school district might be very unhappy if they discover these photos are online to 800 million people.
  2. When Rick was helping set up AgingSafely’s web site, he was crystal clear that we had to have photo releases for every person whose photo was on our web site and if not we could be in legal trouble. If Solveig is right about the BOD approving her setting up the Facebook page, then any legal problems are now Crystal Lake Inc’s. Placing a photo on Facebook makes that photo “public domain”.
  3. If we are going to have a Facebook page, we suggest that all of the members know why. What is the purpose? Since some of the members won’t go near a Facebook account, it can’t be for communicating with our members. In the past Crystal Lake has been quite shy about any public visibility. When Dave was requested to setup Crystal Lake’s web site, it was made clear that the BOD didn’t want it indexed by Google, Bing and Yahoo. They wanted every user to have to login. They wanted access only to current members and perhaps recent members. What has changed the BOD’s mind about this?
  4. Many of us use Facebook or have family members who do.  However, WE are in charge of the content and the privacy settings.  Whether the Crystal Lake page was public or private many of us would not want photos or comments about our families to be included.  We do not want to be forced into joining Facebook just so we can monitor the Crystal Lake Inc. site.  How this matter has so far been handled does not inspire confidence.

Finally, how many residents of Crystal Lake realize that embedded in many digital photos is a GPS Locator.  The next time you see your child or grandchild on Facebook you might want to think about that.  And, who is going to assure us that our grandchildren and guests at the fish planting will not be mounted on this Facebook page?

Dave and Dotti”


3 thoughts on “Privacy, Transparency, and Social Media Controversy In My Own Back Yard

  1. A couple of things – you are a page, not a group. So, I be from Mars and still like your page and post information, does the infringe upon my privacy? I don’t think so. If you are setting this up as a FB group with members, not just having random followers with an interest, then she might have point, because by joining the group, you imply you have ownership in the group. This can be very specifically called out in the information section of your facebook group/page description. I would say that for groups with these sort of privacy concerns, that something like a Yammer or a private facebook group would be the best thing. Is Crystal Lake Inc. a planned development with a HOA/corporation or is it an association of people living in the area? If it is a HOA, then take it private, if its a community association and you are just sharing information about the community, in general, then it should stand.

    The only other issue I see is the naming of individuals in images, especially if that person is not on facebook and has some issues with their privacy.

    Does that make sense?

    • Thank for your comments, Nazila. Helpful! It’s interesting how this whole thing has illuminated some key tension points: privacy vs. transparency, generational communications differences, community and communications. It continues to evolve. One good thing that has already come of it: my neighbor’s son who is 22, is doing a social media internship in New York City, and he emailed me to discuss the whole thing. So It has opened a dialog between generations! I have also received several notes and passing comments in person in support of the Facebook page. The June Board meeting will determine if the page goes private or not…

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