Social media and privacy are not incompatible (it just seems that way)
Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Google, and your cell phone -- everybody wants to have their way with your data. It's time to get serious about privacy.
Welcome to my new blog, Thank You For Not Sharing. As the title implies, this blog is about privacy and social media, and even more about privacy and anti-social media.
Why am I writing this blog, and why now? Because the opportunities for privacy abuse in the brave new world of social networks are virtually endless. Sure, you may have 7,481 close personal friends on Facebook, but is Facebook your friend? You may tweet out every insipid little thought that passes through your frontal lobes on Twitter, but is somebody collecting these pearls of wisdom to use against you? Just how much can someone find out about you from your Linked In resume, and do you really want the world to know all this?
We are just a few short years into the social media revolution. Combine the bottomless reservoirs of information people willingly give up online with the new trove of geo-location data being broadcast by GPS phones and services like Foursquare, add some Flickr photos and YouTube videos, and stir with the vast search capabilities of Google.
We don't need Big Brother. We are Big Brother. Or maybe 300 million annoying Little Brothers.
My larger point: Even people who claim they have “nothing to hide” almost invariably have something worth hiding -- if only their personal address, social security number, and date of birth. In fact, it's the people who are most in the public eye that have the most to protect. You may love posting videos of yourself shaking your booty on YouTube and getting comments from your fans; you probably won't love it when your most devoted fan shows up unexpectedly on your doorstep.
And then there's ChatRoulette, which is just, well, I can't even put it into words yet. Look for something on that in a future post.
That's not even including the external privacy threats. Schools using Web cams to spy on students. Police using suspects' own cell phones to track them without a warrant. The NSA vacuuming up all your Internet data to figure out if you're a terrorist or just a little tweaked. Don't we already have enough to worry about without putting our privates on display across the InterWebs?
I could go on like this all day.
I'm not saying you shouldn't use social media. I'm saying you should use it intelligently. More important, you should fight for the right to control the information you generate, and that others generate about you. Nobody is going to just hand this stuff over to you, not when there are billions of dollars at stake.
Enough whining. Over the next few weeks and months I'll touch on all these topics and more. In the meantime, I hope you'll come back, leave a comment or two, email me questions, or pick a fight.
And... thank you for not sharing.
Dan Tynan has been writing about Internet privacy for the last 3,247 years. He wrote a book on the topic for O'Reilly Media (Computer Privacy Annoyances, now available for only $15.56 at Amazon – order yours today). During his spare time he gently tends eSarcasm, the not-yet-award-winning geek humor site .