Social Media Top 5: The Dearth of Privacy


Photo Credit: rpongsaj on Flickr

Notice I didn’t say “death” of privacy. I still dislike it when people say something is “dead” when we know it isn’t. However, a number of things have been popping up recently that make me wonder if people are concerned enough about privacy; I recently read Don Tapscott’s book “Grown Up Digital,” and his main concern about Generation Y was their seeming lack of concern over their personal privacy and the data they make available. All this makes me think about how I deal with it.


Foursquare is a great application, allowing people to “check in” from locations, creating not only a gaming situation in which people become “mayors” of their favorite hangouts, but also a great geo-discovery tool when trying to plan a night out, or meet your friends. It’s also perhaps the most dangerous tool to date for those who share too much.  I’m aware of this (heck, I remember when people worried about revealing location on Twitter as an opportunity for burglars to sack their houses. Hmm) and try to be coy about location when privacy is warranted, while still using the tool quite a bit. However, I am taken aback by this list, “The Most Stalker Friendly People on the Web” (via TechCrunch). As of this writing, I’m #65 in the world (it’s only based on number of Foursquare “friends” though, so it’s more than a little misleading.

Still, do you think about how and to whom you are revealing your location?

Facebook’s new policy

Facebook made adjustments to its privacy controls this past week. Unfortunately, the new defaults may have exposed your previously private content to the world– and to Google. I’ll let Jason Calacanis tell Facebook off for screwing this up. My take? I never pay attention to the privacy controls, though I think you should. Why not me? I just don;t put up things I don;t want the whole world to see. It’s easier that way. I’m lazy; sue me. The worst that happens is that high school classmates ask me where are the pictures of my son. It never occurred me to put them up there. If I do, you bet I’ll pay attention.

Do you read privacy policies and terms of service on the sites you use? Me neither, but we should if we’re going to share anything we only want certain people to see.

Google’s real-time search

The launch of Google real-time search— what does that mean for privacy? Off the top of my head, it does mean that anything you put out there, accidentally or on purpose, is now exposed, even temporarily, to a potentially wide audience. That Twitter oopsie could appear in a Google search result. Could. I’m not too worried about that, but wonder if people have any stories yet.

Government monitoring of Twitter

Government agencies are monitoring Twitter and other social services, presumably for evil-doers. I’m not sure this is akin to phone-tapping, as Twitter, at least, is a public channel. Is there a slippery slope? I’ll leave that to the conspiracy theorists.

If you’re going to invade someone’s privacy, at least be creative about it

You have to give credit to “Anon Bestman” for simultaneously the best and most horrifying Twitter practical joke I can think of.

My personal privacy policy:

I hinted at it above: the simplest policy for me is threefold:

  1. Don’t post anything you don’t want exposed, even if you think it’s private
  2. Get comfortable with a certain lack of privacy. Be comforted in the fact that most people don’t actually care about the details of your life
  3. Pick and choose where you actually do want to apply privacy controls (I do so on the Flickr photo-sharing service). Guard those sites with your life and pay attention. Then, expect something to go wrong anyway.

Easy, isn’t it?


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