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Privacy is Overated

Category: Andy Marken's blog Published on Monday, 06 September 2010

Social Media…Stay in Touch, Be Touched


Face it, Kent. You threw up "on" Dean Wormer.” – Boon, National Lampoon’s Animal House (Universal Pictures – 1978)

In college, we had one of the best frat houses on campus.  Gawd we’re glad the social net wasn’t around back then.

If it were, we’d probably have more to live down than Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg when he said anyone who shared their personal information with him was “a dumb f***.
Or, that he and his minions work to make people believe that that people shouldn't expect online privacy, which sorta’ means privacy is overrated.

When we hear statements like these, we agree with Scott Adams, “There's nothing more dangerous than a resourceful idiot.”

Fortunately – or unfortunately, depending where you’ve placed your career, money --social site usage isn’t universal.

Worldwide But…
A Synovate survey in 17 countries found that more than half had never heard of social networking.  Of those belonging, the Netherlands (49%) had the most, followed by the UAE (46%), Canada (44%), US (40%).

According to a study by eMarketer of the folks who participate in social networking, 71% have profiles on two or more sites, 26% of them have four or more profiles.

Of the social netters who have two or three profiles:
- 25.6% are 18 to 24 years old
- 23.3% are 25 to 34 years old
- 14.7% are 35 to 44 years old
- 15.6% are 45 to 54 years old
- 18.4% are 55 to 64 years old

There must be something to Zuckerberg’s assertions because people everywhere are signing up for all these “free” connection sites.


Across the Ages – The demographics of social media covers all age groups almost proportionately to the population breakdown.  Facebook is by far the largest and most active social site for individuals who want to stay in touch and find friends.  It is also the most active for businesses wishing to be in closer contact with consumers.  Source – Pew Internet & American Life Project

They are listed and active to barely active on these sites (Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, YouTube, Flickr, Yelp, Blippy, Dopplr, Friendster, Plaxo and hundreds more) for a variety of reasons.



Different Reasons – Regardless of their age, social networkers have reasons for posting their personal information online in the public and semi-private sites.  Most of the users are unaware (or unconcerned) about how their personal information is used/shared.  Source – Anderson Analytics

According to a recent Universal McCann study, they use these sites for a wide range of reasons:
-        message friends – 82%
-        upload photos – 76%
-        find old friends – 74%
-        find new friends – 56%
-        join a group – 48%
-        display current/favorite music – 35%
-        promoting band/service – 35%
-        upload videos – 33%
-        professional/work contacts – 30%
-        dating  17%

Too Many Friends

Everyone In – Despite, or perhaps because of the public attention that has been covered by the media, people continue to rush to the social sites to post personal and private information.  The key word for most of the registered online users is … free.  Illustration -- NYTimes

A friend (yes, a real friend) and I were discussing Twitter and social sites (they often get lumped together) and the rush to be a part of it.

He suggested the shortcomings of the sites were the rush to see how many friends you could accumulate.  In his mind friends are people:
-        you know their birth date
-        you know the color of their eyes
-        you know their favorite food/drink
-        you know their cellphone number, email/home address
-        you’d loan $20 to and not worry about getting it back

The rest?  Acquaintances, passing relationships.

That said, there may be a couple of billion folks on the iNet, but there are far fewer we want to share a lot of personal/family information with.  The number we’re going to give $20 is smaller yet…a helluva’ lot smaller


Hello Friends – The beauty of the Internet is that no matter where you’re at you can envision yourself as being in the center of the universe, center of the action.  Social sites make it easier for you to find friends/acquaintances on the Web and for them to find you.  And for “others” to find your personal information.  Source – The Opte Project

All of the social sites have the lawyers’ mouse nuts type that tells you how to opt-in and protect your privacy and what they’re going to do with all the information you post on their “free” service.

All kinds of groups are working on ideas on how to protect you from yourself and the meanies.
– the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Consumers Reports, Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF).

Of course, the US Congress and Homeland Security are working to come up with the ultimate solution which, if you have followed their track record of past successes, would probably put every legitimate business (like Amazon, Netflix, eBay, etc)…outta’ business!

Or, as Martin Luther King said, “Nothing is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

To save you from embarrassing yourself – again – do what we did…ask your kids!

They know how to practice safe social networking.

Source:  Pew Internet

Privacy Concerns – Facebook and other social media sites have seen only a slight drop in registrants.  However, their numbers have quickly been replaced by new people eager to have huge numbers of “friends” and followers.  Source – Pew Internet & American Life Project
As the Pew Internet & American Life Project recently reported, they have a ‘larger digital footprint’ than most of us.  Their study showed 28 percent of social net users aged 18-29 said they never trust such sites, compared to 19 percent of users 20-49 and 14 percent of 50- to 64-year-olds.
Know Your Settings
If you don’t want to show your ignorance to your kids, then check out Fast Company magazine’s guide --

Sure, it covers Facebook, the poster child for abuse right now, but the advice, with some modifications, applies to any social site.
We know our kids are smart (actually, exceptional), never knew life pre-Web and somehow we just can’t believe they can use social media and “know” the person on the other end.

On the Web…No One Knows You’re a Dog
According to a Crown Science study, social media users around the globe:
-        can easily tell if information they get from social media is true – 46%
-        never worry about someone hacking/abusing online content – 29%
There are a lot of folks who say:
-        Google is about information and computers and making things really fast
-        Facebook is about the sharing and connections
Hundreds, thousands work there just because they love it.

And the investors are doing it to enrich the world.

Sorry…don’t buy it.

At the end of the day, it is still about how much money they put in their cash register and they make that hummer ring by using your information.

That’s okay because marketers will pay good money to be involved with you.

Good for Business – B2B and B2C firms have seized the benefits of setting up social media pages to talk directly with customers and prospective customers.  The economical activity is also an excellent opportunity for crowd-sourcing ideas and conducting market research.  Source – Marketing Executives Networking Group

And that’s okay because they want to work with you in a professional 1-1 manner.

Refer back to Zuckerberg’s earlier comments, look at the EFF’s discussion on Facebook’s activities, track some of the lawsuits.

Still, that’s okay.

As long as you don’t:
-        widely publish your phone number and email address (it’s out there already, but proceed cautiously)
-        post when you’re “overly irritated”, take the discussion offline
-        throw up photos, videos of your kids -- or anyone’s kids
-        use stupid passwords (hint: 123456, abcdef, your name backward, etc. are the most common passwords and the first any decent cybercriminal will try)
-        post comments or photos/videos you wouldn’t want to see in the newspaper or 5 o’clock news)
-        drink, post – you’re absolutely brilliant while you’re doing it, but later…what an ***

We have nothing against Facebook or the growing number of social sites.  We’ve got our basic information posted on most of them.

We just don’t check it that often because our personal life is…personal!

More importantly, the more personal information you put out there, the more information is available to cyberbullies and cyberthieves.

Think about it…Facebook has more than 400 million people sharing billions of pieces of content with their friends and the institutions.

The other social sites are smaller but serve the same purpose.

Where better to mine data, hack good information, discover vulnerabilities?


They’re Looking – While social sites (which is where they make their money) and probably government agencies (no, we’re not paranoid) track your information, clicks and visits; they aren’t alone.   Folks who love to create havoc with malware entice social network users and cybercriminals constantly work the social sites and their databases.

Crooks regularly tap into the social media databases, scooping up thousands of email addresses.

Consumer Reports found:

-  42% of Facebook users volunteer their full birthdate, prime data for ID thieves

-  31% post kids' names, half post photos of kids, enticing to online child predators

-  7% post a home address

-  22% didn’t think about third-party app security when they downloaded on Facebook

-  20% disclosed company private information in their posts

- Nearly 10% were victims of online harassment, abuse, misuse based on information they had freely divulged

The U.S. Congress is working on a privacy bill but…you can’t protect people from stupidity, carelessness.

When was the last time you read the user agreement with any of the sites you post on/use?


Following good/common sense privacy and security practices just makes sense.

Protecting your information and knowing how it can/will be used when you provide it makes you a safe, sane Netizen.

Looking before you jump in you may decide that sharing private stuff publicly isn’t for you.

Dive In – Most Facebook and other social media “members” have never read the fine print on the user acceptance agreement, but there are a few who believe being open – completely open – on the Web is a good thing.  Common sense and judicious caution can help people protect themselves from themselves and others.  The rest?  Jump and cross your fingers.

Don’t worry, Animal House’s Katy can help, “I'll write you a note. I'll say you're too well to attend.”

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