Earlier today one of my dear friends shared this article and tagged me for comment: Facebook Knows Everything About You, And If You Don’t Believe Us Here’s Proof
The article details out how UbiSoft’s marketing for their new game inadvertently shows how much Facebook knows about you. This is done via their Digital Shadow site after asking you to connect to it via Facebook authentication in which you grant access to your data as housed in the social network. The article paints a F.U.D. based theme (fear uncertainty, and doubt) around an individual’s privacy and how they may want to change their settings within Facebook to tighten things down.
Here’s the thing, though: there is no privacy on the internet. Security settings and custom privacy tweaks are speed bumps at best, and theater at worst. Like a glass window next to your home’s front door, any motivated attacker can bypass these settings with some small effort. While the addition of privacy settings are indeed necessary and effective to avoid the most common of breaches, they have also worked to the larger cultures disadvantage by allowing us to be a bit more complacent and reliant upon tools to do the job of privacy control. The best privacy control you have is the ability to choose what information you share.
Be careful, though. What you share may initially seem innocuous and irrelevant to most security or privacy concerns, but as the article above and the site referenced, there are things that can be inferred and connected across the data you share to build a view of your life which you may not have intended to be visible. Simple things like your location when combined with a job title can tell me a fair estimate of income as well as likelihood of work schedules and how valuable your digital life may be. The site does a good job of holding up a mirror to anyone sharing via Facebook and how that information can be connected to build a larger, perhaps unintended picture.
What does this really mean for you, as a participant on social media channels? It means you need to make informed choices. Understand that information is a form of currency used to trade for access to these sites and deeper connections to your networks of people. In my case, I trade quite a bit of information to maintain my connections with you while also working to build domain expertise in my career as a social business strategist. I make very specific choices about how open and transparent I am with what I share via any social channel, knowing that information is at best only obscured by my privacy settings and likely will be seen by many more people I’d not intended or expected. (Oddly, it is one of the lessons I’ve learned from blogging for so long now: you may be writing for one audience, but there’s likely other audiences reading and connecting… pay attention to them as well, as there may be wonderful opportunity for growth when you identify those unknown audiences).
We can’t trust companies to maintain our privacy for us. We need to take personal responsibility for our own information, what and how we share. While this may seem like a call to lock down your profiles, it isn’t. Rather, it is a call to become more informed and to begin thinking before we share and making the choice to use our information to pay for access or connection instead of just assuming it all comes for free. There’s a cost to social interaction, and what we are willing to pay will likely differ for every individual. Knowing that cost is the first step before paying the toll by sharing your information.