Is PRIVACY possible and how BRAVE are you?

In today’s age, almost everyone is using the internet. We use it for online shopping, online bill pay, to send greeting emails to family and friends, to file our taxes, and most frequently to social network via Facebook, Twitter and the likes. The problem is, with every click, our information is shared and our privacy is at risk. Is privacy possible in this digitally-consumed world? And how brave are you?

I believe, like many other millions of people, that Facebook is one of the biggest (if not the biggest) culprits in the invasion of our privacy. Let’s take a look at this video. It shows how and what Facebook does with your information and most of us aren’t even aware.

Do you really have privacy? Facebook stores and shares your private information like your IP address, other online activities, your statuses. For instance, if you change you relationship status to engaged, you will start to receive bridal info, vacation destination packages and other related wedding information. The same “technique” applies when you are online shopping or when you give your email address to retailers for coupons.

Another problem with Facebook and other social networks, as shown in the video, is that they have privacy policies but if you don’t view them frequently you will miss the constant changes. No emails are sent to update you or millions of others on new additions or subtractions to the privacy policies. Most often you must log in to your account, to see that changes have been made. facebook-thumbs-down-190x135-jpg_213453More recently, New York Times reported that about 61% of Facebook users have voluntarily taken a break and of those who have taken a break, 4% have left due to privacy concerns.

We must realize that companies are not always to blame for privacy invasions. You have to consider who you are sharing your information with too. Friends share your pictures, videos, and posts to their friends, then their friends share with their friends, then you are on Good Morning America (ok, that was drastic but VERY possible). This next video shows how “personal sharing” affects our privacy.

Scott McNealy, Sun MicroSystems CEO, is noted for saying, “Privacy is dead, deal with it.” But is it really? Is there something that we can do to make sure that our privacy is protected? In my opinion, privacy is dying but it is not dead yet. Privacy is possible if we, as internet users, take the necessary actions. Below, I have listed my recommendations for making sure that privacy is somewhat possible.

  • We must stay up to date on privacy policies, whether it be for companies like Facebook, Target or Turbotax.
  • We need to make sure that we are surfing under a secure connection.
  • Take action in the judicial system, if needed. Sometimes legal action is needed to make sure that companies are taking the appropriate steps in keeping our information private and being held, by law, to not share our information with third-parties or advertisers. The ACLU has really made an effort on advising individuals on the necessary actions for protecting our privacy.
  • If posting personal things, ask yourself, “do I care if others that are not my friends see this?” If there is any doubt, simply don’t post.  Limit sharing strictly to friends where possible.
  • Think before giving out your email address to receive store/retail coupons. Is the savings worth your privacy?

Protecting our privacy is an ongoing battle and can be difficult for many people. People are turned down for jobs because of their personal pictures or posts, many are “cyber-bullied” because of their personal opinions by people they don’t even know and if I google my name right now, my address and home phone number pops right up. If you choose to be an internet user, you must be brave. You must understand the consequences in participating. It is our duty to know how our privacy may be at risk. If we don’t protect it, who will?

Suggested Readings:

http://www.nbcnews.com/id/3078854/#.URaNKqVqtFI

http://www.wmps.com/blog/online-marketing/social-media/is-privacy-still-possible-online/

http://www.privacy.gov.au/topics/technologies/privacy

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