Privacy, Social Media and Mobile Devices

The original title of this was “What did you think social media meant?” But the issues we face today go beyond social media and enter into many private aspects of our lives. When, in the early 2000’s social media began to blossom, most of us were excited to be able to connect with and reconnect with family and friends both near and far. We didn’t give privacy much of a thought.

Even fairly recently a relationship initiated via a Facebook comment turned into marriage for a family member. How cool is that?

How personal is your personal data? Is privacy important to you?

So let’s be clear, because our goal today is to make things more transparent, every EULA (End User License Agreement) you accept – upon joining FB, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc. or upon setting up a new device like your iPhone or Droid – has ramifications. Ever read any of these? Nope, me neither.

So what did you agree to?

Some of the scary stuff that FB knows about you:

Open / login to your FB on a computer. Then click on settings (currently under the down arrow at the top right). Then along the left click on ads. There are a variety of things you can view here that Facebook knows about you. You can even ask FB to remove or turn off some of the items. But to get to the most personal items, click on Your Information and then on Your Categories.  Facebook knows what devices I access FB from and with what browser(s). They know my political stance. . . a whole bunch of other things I don’t think I’ll share here.

What about other social media sites? Are you on Twitter? If so, login and click on your profile photo in the top right and then click on Settings and Privacy.  On the left click on Your Twitter Data.  Some key things to review include Interests from Twitter, Apps on your devices, and Tailored audiences. One of the nifty things you can do is request an archive of every tweet you’ve ever tweeted.

Are you on Instagram? Probably the most interesting (and scary) item about Instagram is that it accesses the microphone on your mobile device by default. Whether you use a Droid or an iPhone you should be able to access the permissions in your settings. I went in to see what had access to my microphone and sure enough, Instagram was turned on. I had given Instagram permission to eavesdrop and they undoubtedly were.

So since we’re looking at devices, take out your mobile device – or devices as many have more than one. Open the settings.  On my Google Pixel (that FB knows I have), I click on Apps & Notifications then on App Permissions.  From here I can see which apps can access my camera, my contacts, my location, my microphone, my texts and more.

But to see everything that Google knows about you is probably the most alarming. Log in to your Google account and visit https://myactivity.google.com/myactivity. I log in to Chrome on my work computer. I have two Droid devices. Google tracks every app I use every time. It logs every website I visit. It knows every place I go and every place I have been stretching back to 2011. It knows where my home is.  I often speak texts instead of typing them. It knows everything I’ve said with these. It – or perhaps I should say THEY – have recordings of everything I have said to my phone. Under ad settings they list dozens of topics you like.

Some of these sites and companies allow you to remove or turn off settings to give you more privacy. Some, like Facebook, boldly tell you that turning them off might not mean you won’t get those ads anymore.

In any case we all can and should review these settings. It is your life. Take control.

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Privacy and Protection on the Internet

Are you safe? In the “olden days” before the Internet, we often worried about Big Brother (our government) snooping on our every action and word. Now, in these modern times, we joyfully, willingly share, even sometimes in excruciating detail, our personal lives on Social Media networks like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

I had to dial things back a bit when a younger friend and his wife began tweeting about their successes and failures in potty training their infant son.  That was going a bit too far – I can’t think of anyone, including Grandpa and Grandma, that would want to hear about that. Recently I’ve been asked a lot about protecting oneself and one’s identity while online. The first time it came up, I thought “Why would you not want to share?” The second time though, I began to realize that there were very real concerns.

Facebook is definitely sensitive to security concerns. In the privacy settings area, you have a very granular control over who can see what information. For example, if someone tags you in a photo, you can determine from four default choices who should see it OR you can customize the setting to meet your specific needs, even going so far as to detail which friends can access certain information about you. If you have agreed to use or install any Facebook applications, you can also go in and customize the privacy settings for each of them. If you don’t want people to be able to find you in a global Facebook search, you can either turn it off or change the settings as well.

LinkedIn also provides you with tools giving you a high degree of control over your privacy and what is available to the public at large and to you connections. They have seven different main links under Privacy settings alone that let you control what information others can view about you and your profile.

What we are faced with in 2009 is that Social Media networks are a fantastic way to communicate with others about your business or passion. We each have to determine how and what is appropriate to share in different circumstances and in different networks. Remember that they are SOCIAL media networks so it is important to share something a bit personal about you but that doesn’t mean you need to share every part of your life or even share everything with everyone to the same degree.

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