Are our actions online reflective of a CCTV Camera?

I would be very surprised if you didn’t have some form of social media site. I took to twitter to ask just how many social media sites people might be connected to and here are the results…..

Recently I’ve been thinking more about my actions on social media and have realised that my actions simulate those of a CCTV camera. You probably think I’m crazy but bear with me! 6775770334_a1b92be1dc_o

eyes by Petras Gagilas (CC-BY-SA-2.0)

In Australia, we have thousands of CCTV cameras patrolling our streets and they can often be put into two categories: active and passive (Wilson 2005, pg. 44). The definitions of these two categories can vary. However, generally active cameras refer to cameras which are being actively watched or patrolled by someone at the other end (Wilson 2005, pg. 44). Passive is when someone may be observing what is happening but is also doing another task such as administration and therefore isn’t constantly watching (Wilson 2005, pg. 44). You might be wondering…. How does this relate to social media?

Social media gives people the ability to communicate in different forms of social environments (Zhao, Yaobin, Wang & Chau, 2017, pg. 81). The way we connect and form identities online is often influenced by who we communicate and connect with online (Zhao et al. 2017, pg. 76). Therefore, people often base their online behaviour around how others will perceive them, will follow social norms and be influenced by the groups they are connected to online (Zhao et al. 2017, pg. 76).


Network by Jurgen Appelo (CC BY- 2.0)

Social media allows for our peers to actively or passively watch and influence what we are doing. With a few clicks or taps of some buttons we can access a whole website which instantly tells us where our peers have been, where they are now or who they are with. This is essentially what CCTV cameras are telling us daily in an offline world. You might think that this form of surveillance online this is pretty harmless but have you recently checked your privacy settings on any of your social media sites? Do you know who has access to your profile?

Often the default settings on social media sites are activated to increase sharing of information rather than protecting your privacy (Watson, Lipford & Besmer 2015, pg. 1). Often users struggle to understand how to change their privacy settings as its can be very confusing (Watson, et al. 2015 pg. 1). The information users share on their social networking accounts can often be very personal such as their email, address, date of birth and relationship status (Gundecha, Barbier, Tang & Huan, 2014, pg. 2). It is very easy for this information to be passed onto people you don’t know via your friends accidentally or purposely sharing this information (Gundecha et al. 2014, pg. 2). This demonstrates how we can easily watch our peers and how easy it is for people we don’t know to watch what we are doing.


Binoculars by Dana Beveridge (CC BY-2.0)

This is where I can relate my actions to those of a CCTV camera. I’m a passive viewer or a passive casual camera. Do you see the link now?

I very rarely ‘like’ posts online and ‘comments’ are basically extinct.  Often, I will see photos of people I don’t even know and unless I actively ‘like’ the photo that person will never know I’ve seen what they are up to.

It’s impossible to know who is watching us online. We act like CCTV cameras within an online space and are constantly being watched by others as well.

Are your social networking sites protected with privacy settings? Do you believe its important to have them up to date? Let me know in the comments below.

Stay safe-



Gundecha, P, Barbier, G, Tang, J & Huan, L 2014, ‘User Vulnerability and Its Reduction on a Social Networking Site’, ACM Transactions on Knowledge Discovery from Data, vol. 9, no. 2, pp. 1-25, doi: 10.1145/2630421

Watson, J, Lipford, H & Besmer, A 2015, ‘Mapping User Preference to Privacy Default Settings’, ACM Transactions on Computer Human Interaction, vol. 22, no. 6, pp. 1-20, doi:

Wilson, D 2005, ‘Behind the Camera: Monitoring and Open-street CCTV Surveillance in Australia’, Security Journal, vol. 18, no. 1, pp. 43-54, doi:

Zhao, P, Yaobin, L, Wang, B & Chau, P 2017, ‘Who Do You Think You Are? Common and Differential Effects of Social Self-Identity on Social Media Usage’, Journal of Management Information Systems, vol. 34, no. 1, pp. 71-101, retrieved 6 August 2017, E-Journals, EBSCOhost.


2 thoughts on “Are our actions online reflective of a CCTV Camera?

  1. Hi Alice! I enjoyed reading your blog, it was well written. The font is a bit hard to read in my opinion and other photos could have been more powerful to use. I did really liked the tweet you embedded though, and I also really like how you engage with your readers by asking questions! You used lots of references which is also great. Keep up the good work 🙂


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