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June 26, 2018

Privacy, What Privacy?

Most of you will have heard of the fuss over the information from User Profiles on Facebook being shared and then sold to Cambridge Analytica. If this is new to you, you may want to read Zuckerberg confesses ‘huge mistake’ as Cambridge toll hits 87M to come up to speed.

Basically reports emerged in March 2018 that Facebook had known since 2015 that Cambridge Analytica, which did work for Trump's 2016 campaign, obtained information on some 50 million users via an academic researcher. (this has been upgraded to 87 million users). Many Facebook users are understandably upset.

Take Responsibility for Your Privacy

My take on this is that it's time we users of internet services took responsibility for our own privacy and stopped depending on large corporations to do it for us.

Facebook Settings Options
First of all, users can control their own privacy settings on Facebook. It's easy to go in to your settings (using the gear icon) for PRIVACY and tighten them up. Stop letting others post on your timeline. Stop showing the world your friends' list. Limit who can see your posts and also who can see your past posts. There are several options available and you can restrict your account as much as you want.

Secondly, are you participating in those memes that ask you (often in a convoluted way) for personal details such as your middle name, your year of birth, your mother's maiden name. Even innocent-seeming memes such as "What is your Santa's Elf name" where you have to select your first name, the last digit (or 2 digits) of your year of birth, and so on, should be avoided!

Third, are you posting personal information? Are you linking to obituaries of a close relative such as a mother, father, or sibling? Anyone mining your page for data can now easily obtain more personal details about you!

Fourth, do you reveal your  home address? First names of your children? I could go on but I think you get the idea.

How about those fun little quizzes you like to take? The ones that say you have to allow the app to access your profile, photos, etc - hopefully you don't give that permission! Because if you do, you only have yourself to blame for giving up your privacy. 

It Isn't Just Facebook

Let's not blame Facebook for all our woes. Google "reads" your outgoing and incoming emails using bots in order to deliver relevant ads to you. You can now limit what ads you see, but it doesn't appear you can force Google to stop scanning your emails. But there's a good side to that! Scanning allows Google to stop spam quite effectively.

Anything you post on the internet is almost certainly going to be publicly available at some point to total strangers. So why are you not protecting yourself online?

Think of it this way - would you walk up to a stranger, and immediately say "Hi there. My name's Mary Smith and I have 3 children - Tommy, Bobby and Jimmy. They're 6, 4 and 2. Tommy and Bobby are in Little Angels Public School over on Wilmott Street. My mom Sally died 3 years ago, and her obituary is online. Dad's still with us and he lives in Winnertown. My husband Danny works at the Auto Shoppe in Friendlyville. I'm 49, Danny's 53"   But that is what you are doing when you join memes, take online quizzes, and don't restrict who can see your information.

Take Sensible Precautions

There's no need to be terrified. Just take sensible precautions. When you join a new group or social media site, check out their privacy and security options. Think before you post and before you fill out forms asking for personal information. 

My husband's rule of thumb is to not reveal anything online that you don't want the world to know. I'm not quite that strict but I do check my settings in all social media sites I'm on. Don't wait - check yours now and set them as most suits you.

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