A few days ago, in response to another deluge of Facebook Newsfeed requests to help keep my posts and their posts out of the new “news ticker” at the upper right hand side of the screen, I posted the following status update:
No, I will not take myself out of YOUR privacy settings, and I'm not taking you out of mine. I have nothing to hide, and neither should you.
Here's a freebie guaranteed to make your online social networking life more secure: don't post anything anywhere online, ever, for any reason that you wouldn't want everyone, everywhere to be able to see FOR ALL TIME. This means friends, future bosses, children, spouses, pastors, relatives, strangers, governments, aliens, (great-great-great) grandchildren, vampires, carnies, angels, politicians, that smelly dude on the bus, enemies, The Taliban, everyone in better shape than you, the robot who will one day run your life, geeks, geniuses, ghosts... and so on. EVERY-FREAKIN-ONE.
And share this. Or don't. Your call.
First things first. My apologies for anyone who felt snapped at. I was grumpy.
“Privacy” has become, I think, an ironic word. I think it’s ironic because we don’t really use it to talk about privacy at all, but rather use it to discuss online activities which are, more often than not, completely unprivate. Sure, we can guard our Email, Facebook, and Twitter accounts with passwords, but as we are all becoming increasingly aware, those things are not private at all.
There needs to be a clarification here: privacy is not a synonym for security.
Now, I do think governments, banks, and online retailers have a responsibility to protect my security. If I entrust them with my credit card to make a purchase, or fill out an online form for a new passport, it’s not unreasonable that that information be locked up securely. But when we expect Facebook, Twitter, and various Email services to protect our voluntarily posted/sent information, we forget who really is the responsible party.
We are. No one is forcing us to use any of those services – which are designed to make money – and we should be very, very careful about what information is placed on their servers. Think about it: from the dawn of the internet, security experts have been hammering home the point that nothing of any security value at all should be put online. BUT – and there’s the magic proviso – if we do place things online, WE must make sure that we are using effective passwords and changing them regularly to reduce the ease with which hackers can access the info.
Click here if you thought your passwords were clever.
And that’s just what we can control. We have no say about who runs the Facebook or Twitter server farms, or how many dishonest people work for Gmail or Hotmail, and yet we put some of our most delicate information in their hands and then act all indignant when they remind us that our privacy isn’t really their responsibility.
This summer, when I finished teaching and moved into writing full time, I learned about marketing and publicity and how my reputation is in large part determined by my public persona. And because "public" these days includes the world wide web, writers (anyone, really) has to be extra careful about what information is visible online, particularly the things we put there ourselves. I might not be able to control some things – such as the Zoo Run posting my personal best 10K time, 41:22, from which I am now embarrassingly distant – but there is so much I can.
The advice I received and that I would put forth is this: everything online is fair game. In these hyper-connected times, anyone can cut-and-paste, download photos, web-bot search addresses and phone numbers, so I was advised never to post or type anything I wouldn’t want anyone to see and use, forever (the net is, after all, here to stay). In my case, in addition to my personal accounts, I have to be all right with others cutting and pasting the selected poetry and fiction I put on my professional websites, or posts to this blog, and using it elsewhere. Yes, I have copyright, but doesn’t cut-and-paste make it seem almost obsolete?
And Google yourself often. That might even be more scary than the password link above.