What's New in Technology for April 2012

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Technology: Low Profile Has Its Merits

If you run a business, you’re cautioned constantly about the dangers of being “invisible” on the Internet, or of failing to leverage your website to achieve maximum search engine optimization. What you want for your business is a high profile. However, when it comes to social media, the exact opposite might be your goal.

Privacy, or the lack of it, has been a mounting issue for the past couple of years. Companies that collect and share personal data involving religion, finances, spending habits, medical history and other such information to third parties without the consent of customers have been the target of industry and government efforts to protect individual privacy. Recent news reports suggest that the commercial data-collection industry and their allies continue to find ways to track and gather personally identifiable information. The dozens of popular cell phone apps that were recently discovered to be transmitting data to third parties without users’ permission caused a storm of justified protest.

What can you do? It helps to start with the premise that nothing you do online is anonymous. Many people are too busy or too daunted by the long privacy policy messages they are asked to review to properly read them.

Here are a few steps to consider:

  • Look at privacy policies governing the search engines you use. The Google privacy policy outlined back in February involved storing information for nine months for each information search, and the “cookie” that uniquely identifies your computer would stay on your computer for a staggering 18 months. With this in mind, take a look at how easily you give permission to unknown entities to access your data. If you don’t think that you do it, have you ever allowed a Facebook application to have access to your data in return for some “service,” such as birthday reminders?
  • On the subject of Facebook, don’t post a travelogue in real time. This could be an invitation to a burglar. Perhaps your friends aren’t in the breaking-and-entering business, but you don’t know who might be reading their pages with your posts.
  • Take the time to review and change your browser privacy settings on Facebook and other social media sites. It is a good idea to tailor privacy settings for each friend. You might already know this if you’ve had a friend’s buddy post an obnoxious comment regarding one of your posts. Facebook lets you block your Facebook profile from web search efforts, and you can check to see what your friends see when they look at your profile. Go back and review your privacy settings frequently.

Of course, there is no turning back the clock. We live in a digital age and there is no perfect solution to the privacy issue. Perhaps all you can do is change your mindset and assume that nothing you post online or via email is private. Think twice before sharing personal information, and never post financial information – even on a secure site – unless you know that you are transmitting from a secure zone.


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