Saturday, May 29, 2010

You'll be Surprised what Facebook and Others Know About You, Boomers

As you know I've written about privacy a few times in this blog. I really think you have to keep on top of the privacy settings in social network sites. But it is abundantly clear that sites are collecting lots of information that we don't really know about. 

While much of that information is harmless, some can be used to attack you. And I'm not talking about kids who post pictures of drunken parties on the web and expect that their job hunt will go well. I'm talking about you, Boomers, as this Washington Post article makes clear.  

To sum up the article, a woman's two relatives were hurt in an electrical explosion while conducting routine maintenance at Walmart. They sued the company. The defense went after the woman's online life. Through a subpoena seeking information about what was said about the men's injuries, Walmart's defense team got full access to her Facebook and MySpace accounts "every public and private message contact and photo for the last 2 1/2 years."

The Washington Post article says that many online sites are building dossiers about their users, and while some are making the information anonymous, others are not. Some retain detailed data for a year, others for a month. The amount of access to that data is increasing, as attorneys use subpoenas to get access to the data for divorce and other suits.

Here's the key thing to remember. If a lawyer wants to access your laptop, he or she needs a warrant, and that's hard to get. If he or she wants access to your online life, all that is needed is a subpoena, which is easy to get. Google keeps track of search queries from a particular IP address; XBox users: Microsoft knows what game you played and how long you played it.

Facebook keeps a record of  the IP address used to access your account, the date and time you went on and exactly what you did. Facebook now knows that I am addicted to their Zynga Scramble game!

With all that in mind, I urge you to check your Facebook privacy settings yet one more time.  Facebook actually changed the privacy settings to make them simpler to use. All you have to do now is go to Facebook and go to the Account tab in the upper right corner. You'll see a pull down menu that has a Privacy tab. Hit it.

The photo below tells you what Facebook recommends for your privacy settings.


I say don't do it. Change them.  Be more careful who you open up your life to. And even while you use Facebook, remember that every snarky comment you make could be held against you.


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