Laziness about Privacy Settings Can Put You in Peril

Lindsay Lohan, the controversial actress and singer, wrote a song in 2004 called “Rumors” that focused on her need for privacy. Even though she hasn’t done the best job of staying out of the news, her pop hit was slightly prophetic, as confidentiality and personal space has become one of the largest issues surrounding social media use.

Whether it’s regarding a Facebook account or an internal networking system, people may be feeling a little like Lindsay did and say, “Well, I just need a little space to breathe. Can you respect my privacy?”

Companies and their employees should know the intricacies of their privacy settings to ensure that needed breathing room is always available.

Take the example of Google’s Buzz network, which was unveiled earlier this year. The network automatically subscribed members who used the company’s e-mail account – Gmail. Therefore, it broadcasted information meant to stay hidden, such as the location of battered ex-wives who were keeping their identity concealed from abusive former spouses.  Rightfully so, users were scared off because their privacy wasn’t veiled.

Facebook, which constantly updates how users can lockdown aspects of their personal profiles, is occasionally in the news for people having personally lax privacy settings. For example, a school teacher outside of Boston complained about some of her students’ parents and was fired for it. Had she realized her privacy settings were allowing comments to be made public, she still might have her position.

Recently, a burglary ring was shut down in Nashua, N.H.; more than 50 robberies took place before police were able to arrest those involved. How did burglars snatch people’s belongings? Simply by looking at their friends’ Facebook status updates to see when certain users would be out of town for a long period of time.

We don’t want to scare you away from social media, but want to reinforce the perils of privacy-setting laziness. Forgetting to modify your privacy settings on any network account can be costly.  In fact, these case studies would never have happened if the social media users had taken the time to review and edit their default settings.

There are few tips to help you keep your private information private on social media platforms:

• Don’t join a network that doesn’t take your privacy into consideration. Apple recently unveiled its social network – Ping – to coincide with their iTunes music and shopping software. When Steve Jobs, Apple CEO, announced Ping, one of the first sentences out of his mouth dealt with privacy and how Apple cares about keeping your identity and securing all it entails. Imagine if Google had done that rather than linking everybody who had ever signed up for a Gmail account.

• Watch what you write. Teachers may have to deal with parents they don’t like. Everybody works with people they don’t like. It is inappropriate to bash your enemies or annoyances in an open forum like Facebook. Like Grandma always said: “If you don’t have something nice to say, you shouldn’t say anything at all.” That statement goes for posting, tweeting and blogging.

• Know your “friends.” The Nashua burglars prove the point that your friends may not actually be friendly, so setting your privacy to “only friends” may not help. Many of us are guilty of having a Facebook “friend” who they barely speak to or may not even know. If that’s the case, a quick clean up of your friends and removing people you are less than acquainted with is a good idea, which could be excellent advice for Ms. Lohan.

Privacy settings are not completely airtight, therefore, you will probably not be fully insulated no matter what you do. However, regular review and modification of your privacy settings, and some prudent restraint, will help advert risks.

(Thanks to rpongsaj for the photo.)

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