Common Sense and Online Privacy Issues

Posted on November 14th 2011

Ultimately, it's our responsibility to read and understand each social media website's privacy policies and practices. With that said, trying to decipher what a team of lawyers has put together is not an easy task; especially when the language is intentionally designed to keep everyone in the dark.

Weighing Online Privacy Issues And Social Benefits

While total anonymity on or off the internet is impossible, when it comes to social media we need to weigh the benefit and the price of admission.

Why do we use social media in the first place?

  • To network with other like-minded people?
  • To place links to our blogs, websites and other social networks?
  • To share our interests with our online connections?

What are your internet privacy Issues?

  • Your physical address or location publicized?
  • Your personal identity being hijacked?
  • Stolen financial account access?

Both social media benefits and the online privacy issues that go with them are important but, for the most part, can be controlled with a little common sense.

Your Birthday

My online birthday is not my real birthday. For years I've been using the same wrong birth date for online profiles. The year is correct but the month and day are fictitious and that's to protect myself.

Your Address

Most social media sites don't require an address but if you are going to make a purchase that requires delivery I recommend getting a PO Box. I use my box number on PayPal, eBay, my domain registrations and anywhere else I'm required to have an address. It's a simply matter to locate our actual home address but why advertise it everywhere?

Your Phone Number

There isn't a need to include your phone number with most membership sites. If you are going to list your phone number, I recommend using only a cell phone.

Your Social Security Number

You should not include your SS# for social media or membership sites. Many affiliate,  PPC and CPA programs require your social security number for tax purposes. Use common sense and be certain you are only using legitimate websites with no past online privacy issues.

Social Media Site Connections

It is super easy to register and log-in with many social networking sites simply by allowing connections with other websites such as your Facebook or Twitter accounts. Check the privacy policies and practices of each site before you allow these connections. A simple Google search can help find potential internet privacy issues with sites in question.

Your Picture

Use an image as your avatar if you're not comfortable using your actual photo. Some blogs and forums and won’t allow registration without an actual picture.

Your Name

Personally, I have no problem using my name. In fact, it's part of my brand. Just like your picture, many blogs and forums will not allow you to use an alias or company name. Google+ also requires a real name. If you tell me your name is Steve Scott, how do I know if that's really your name? But if you try to comment on my blog using more than one name using the same IP address, website or email, I'm going to think you're a spammer. Your name certainly isn't "Cheap Water Beds" - that is spamming.

Your Email Address

I know many people are using separate email accounts for various online purposes and I am no exception. Don't use your primary email or your work email if you don't know for a fact that the site isn't going to offer it up to the highest bidder or send you many emails a day. Don't assume you can easily unsubscribe.

Limited Privacy On The Internet

Online privacy issues are real and as we become more and more connected on the internet; the easier it is to gain personal information about us. We, as individuals, have to determine what information we are willing to share. Internet privacy concerns are one thing, paranoia is another.

Use common sense and don't post pictures that are going to come back and haunt you later. Don't launch personal attacks that are going to get you in trouble. Don't share so much information on status updates that you become an easy target or victim.

The Bottom Line

There are always going to be websites abusing our privacy and there are always going to be those that want complete anonymity. We can enjoy our online experience with limited online privacy issues by understanding what is being recorded, how it's used and whether or not we can opt out BUT there is a give and take with everything we do online.

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Brian D. Hawkins

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Comments

Robin Carey
Posted on November 14th 2011 at 3:00PM

Great basic advice, Brian. I'm especially interested since the good folks and clients at Ogilvy360 have asked me to moderate a panel on this topic on December 6 at their DC headquarters.  

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Posted on November 15th 2011 at 12:30AM

Wow Robin, that sounds like an interesting gig!

Robin Carey
Posted on November 26th 2011 at 4:27PM

Yes, let me know if you're able to attend.

Posted on November 14th 2011 at 5:46PM

I often use my great grandmother's birthday (in 1907) for required DOB, and when I tried this while creating my Facebook account, FB balked and replied, "Enter your real birthday."  Google Buzz accepted it, though...no problem!

 

For phone numbers, I typically refuse to participate (either online or at the multitude of cash registers that think they can't ring my purchase without it); however, if I can't get around it, or am too tired to argue, I offer up the voice mail remote retrieval number, which will give them, "Please enter your passcode...or, if you're not calling from home, your home number."  That takes care of that, and I'm not inadvertently bombarding some poor soul at random who'll get calls for me.

 

An email is easy to fake  [MumboJumbo]@server.com, or, as you said, designate one for spam.  (Since this is so, why bother making it a required field to post to a blog?)

 

I would add to check your browser's settings not only for cookies but third party cookies and clean this on a regular basis.  http://bit.ly/rTkyLi

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Posted on November 15th 2011 at 12:35AM

Hi Anonymous, That voice mail retrieval number would be great for bill collecters. As far as blogs go, I use a seperate email for blog commenting but I always check that one. Blogging is a big part of my life.

 

What's wrong with Facebook not liking hundred and four year olds. lol

Courtney Hunt
Posted on November 25th 2011 at 10:38PM

 

On the other hand... Check out this piece about potentially making lying on the internet illegal:

It's harde to argue with common sense. On the other hand... Check out this piece about potentially making lying on the internet illegal:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2011/11/15/142356399/is-lying-on-the...

The privacy battle rages on...

 

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Posted on November 26th 2011 at 1:43AM

Thanks Courtney, I'll check it out. If lying becomes illegal online then I guess at least the polititions will have to stay out. ;)

Courtney Hunt
Posted on November 26th 2011 at 2:40PM

You'd think, right?!?!

Anonymity and privacy are two critical issues we need to address as the Digital Era continue to progress. I've been collecting a number of articles on the topic that I'd like to put together in a Digital Era Food for Thought post for the Digital Era Thinkers Blog at the Global Center for Digital Era Leadership (GCDEL). I've added your piece to the mix...

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Posted on November 27th 2011 at 8:31AM

Thanks Courtney, I'd love to see that if you can give the link. I found the site and subscribed to your list. I followed on Twitter as well. Thank you.

doubletap
Posted on June 12th 2012 at 11:35PM

I have found it is common sense. The part in most of them where they say they can change the agreement at any time is what leads me to try to stay away. I have had to sign up with these services with testing accounts for software development and found that there are so many ways to get around the privacy these networks supposedly provide as stated in their agreements. So, instead I opt for networks like tagalong.io that actually provide privacy or use ghostery if I have to log in to facebook for some work thing. I think that the market will lead to solutions.