Are we all getting a little too Social?

If you have a count right now, how many social networks are you on? And how much information do you disclose to those people you know and those people you don’t. Or how much information did you forget that you disclosed or didn’t think is visible to all the world.

On my last count I have probably signed up to more than a dozen “Social networks” over the years, where I’ve been asked to disclose personal information about myself. Some of these I still use and others have closed, been merged with other organizations or I’ve chosen to no longer use or delete. These include Facebook, Twitter, Google+, MySPace, Flickr, Digg, FourSquare to name only a few and the more well known.

All these sign-ups seem to try and justify why they’re asking for your personal data, including for ‘Security’ purposes to secure your account, to enhance your experience of their site, to share with other social contacts and the final one (which is normally hidden in the small print); to disclose / sell to the marketing department, associated companies & third parties so they can farm everything they can about you, then stalk you, advertise to you and try to sell you stuff!

In-light of the latest Google Privacy Policy from earlier in 2012, which in summary means that Google can share all the data it holds about it’s users across all platforms & products it has, where-as previously each product Google released came with it’s own T&C’s which totaled approximately 70, but meant just because you G-Buzz’d, G+’d, Emailed, watched on YouTube or searched for things, it could only keep that data within that arena to push advertising to you or share with it’s authorised associates. The new Policy now it means if you’re logged into your Google account and search for something, it can be stored then used to show you an advert in any of the platforms about that same subject, or if you search for YouTube video it can store that search or watch history and use the information to advertise to you within Google.com of the Banner in your GMail.

It’s all a bit Big Brother and Stalkerish. Google will justify it as a way of enhancing your online presence and experience, others will say storing that much information by one company is a fraud waiting to happen and I agree that with online identify theft & fraud growing, simply having all your eggs in once basket can be a dangerous thing. Companies don’t express the need for Users (that’s you and I) to ensure their password is difficult to crack and that their computer is protected so isn’t susceptible to Malware and Virus’ that disclose your details to someone who wants to take over your account. We’ve all seen the papers previous giants like Sony got hacked and more recently Yahoo, is anyone really safe!?

Google don’t readily advertise that you can disable some of these feature, the easiest is disabling Web History so they can’t store everything you search for on Google.com https://www.google.com/history/
The other option is make sure you’re not logged into your Google account when searching Google.com, use an alternate search engine, or install a 2nd browser i.e log into your Gmail with Chrome and surf the net Firefox.

Now, I’ve talked about Google alot, but there are other culprits Facebook has been in the news for it’s more recent advertising campaign of telling you what other people you know have liked to encourage you also Like it. Or Facebook will analyze what you like or information that identifies where you’ve been, such as a Check-In, location that a photo was tagged of you or even who you’ve messaged or commented on and will suggest new Friends. It’s all a little creepy, especially when people you knew from School from 20 years ago pop-up! Though in most of my cases if it was a someone at school who I didn’t care to stay in touch with, I sure ain’t fussed about giving them a ‘Poke’ or sharing stuff with them now… but that’s just me!

Unfortunately, if you’re like me and always question why something is asking you for personal information then you’ll either get knocked back and not be able to enjoy all that many services, because they make telling them your life story mandatory to let you in… or you tell a lie, create a false account or submit partially false information and you become one of the 83 million Fake Facebook accounts reported a month ago in various news sites.

Either way, people have various reason they want to have some anonymity. The bad people that just want to Troll and Abuse other users, which I whole heartedly disagree with…. if you have something to say / have an opinion, then say it to someones face and with an identity, don’t hide behind ‘RantyUser69’ or some other stupid alias.
Or the not so bad people like Me who know the value of personal privacy, have worked in sectors where I’ve been required to locate people and in one case had the tables turned and got a rude awakening from a bad/rogue client.

Also I feel I shouldn’t be forced to expose myself (not physically lol) to 3rd parties who I haven’t chosen to deal with – I don’t buy the small print of ‘we may share your information with our subsidiaries, partners or selected third parties’. Same as I hate when you innocently purchase an item from an online retailer and they suddenly assume they can spam you with product updates despite having no marketing opt out option on their website / checkout process. It really annoyed me recently when having to go on the annual hunt for car insurance and on a number of websites the Opt-Out buttons were not clear and you had to click on a drop down to display the options to Opt-Out and if I hadn’t have carefully scanned the small print I would have missed it.

Also tip for all if you – get your own domain name and within that domain name have your main email address and the option to create delivery address’. You can add a delivery address within a few simple clicks – i.e carstuff@50percent.co.uk, use the address for it’s purpose to get quotes. Once you’ve chosen your supplier you can give them your Normal address and delete the delivery address – so all those companies that try to spam you, the deleted address just bounces and you don’t hear from them again until you choose to contact them. I like this way of working and it saves having to go through the process of signing up for a brand new email service ever time. I can add as many delivery names as I like and all the emails get delivered to my inbox then I can also use rules to filter them to sub-folders if I want.

That’s enough from me for this time… any questions or comments about data disclosure, data protection, and tips of protecting your personal information feel free to drop me a line or select one of the social network options on the right hand side.

One comment

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