Tag Archives: privacy

Who Controls Your Child on Facebook?

I hadn’t heard about the proposed SB 242 bill in California until reading about it on TechCrunch a few moments ago. As I quickly ran through the article, I prepared myself to see a whole lot of angry comments at the end. I wasn’t disappointed… people are angry. However, every single commenter is missing the bigger picture in my mind. How – exactly – is Facebook supposed to determine parental rights should they receive a takedown request?

As it is written, the bill would ensure that:

“A social networking Internet Web site shall remove the personal identifying information of a registered user in a timely manner upon his or her request. In the case of a registered user who identifies himself or herself as being under 18 years of age, the social networking Internet Web site shall also remove the information upon the request of a parent of the registered user.”

I understand where they are trying to go with this, really I do. The HUGE problem I see is that there is absolutely nothing written about ways in which “the social networking site” is supposed to figure out who the parents really are. Without exact guidelines, any person would be able to claim they are someone’s parent and demand that information be removed. Perhaps Johnny has divorced parents and the father isn’t allowed any rights at all. Should that father then be able to request Facebook remove something from the young man’s page? What about a teen who has no “parents,” and instead lives with grandma? Does that mean he can post whatever he likes, without the grandmother being able to do anything about it?

The bills as written begs for trouble. In order to make demands of this nature, there has to be clear-cut guidelines. There is simply far too much grey area here… too much room for abuse. I’ll go so far as to say it: there’s even potential there for stalking and harassment of minors. Katie could have a friend in high school who is out to “get” her for some reason. Said “friend” creates a new Facebook account and pretends to be Katie’s mom… do you see where I’m going? Where is the burden of PROOF? Do we even want to delve into the creepy factor here? I think not. You can figure that out for yourself.

I agree that there needs to be better ways to protect the privacy of teens on social networking sites. I disagree with all of the people screaming that parents need to parent their children better. If a parent cannot understand the complicated and convoluted privacy settings on Facebook, what hope do they have of keeping track of that of their child? Facebook – and sites like it – need to step up to the plate and make things much simpler on everyone involved.

Are Your Parents on Facebook?

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My Mom finally decided to create a Facebook account for herself. She plans to only use it to keep in touch with family and close friends, so she was worried about choosing the correct privacy settings. This is something that many of our parents are facing. They want to have Facebook so they can keep track of us, but they don’t want the world to see their information. Do you know how to guide them through setting everything up in a way they are comfortable with?

Obviously, we added all of the normal information to begin with, such as name and location. We learned that Facebook doesn’t “check” passwords against each other when setting up an account to make sure they are correct. We had to take a picture for her profile, and she decided to grab a picture with Wicket and Pixie – her grandpups!

When it asked her to find connections, that was simple. Mom is the last of our immediate family to give in and get a Facebook account. I helped her add my Dad, my brothers and myself.

Have you ever helped a parent (or grandparent) set up an account on Facebook – or another social media site? Did you find it challenging to make sure that they felt comfortable with the privacy settings?

Facebook Adding Comments You Make to Others on Your Wall

We’ve long had “Recent Activities” show up on our Facebook Wall, right? We had all of these little snippets littering up our Wall or Page, telling the world where on the site we’ve been. However, the only thing those little messages said was that we had been there. Nothing showed up on our on Walls about what we were doing there. That changed about five hours ago, according to reports trickling in from the community… and not for the better. Facebook is now posting the actual comments that you post elsewhere onto your own Wall.

My assistant Kat called me a few moments ago to tell me about it, and I had to go and test things out. I posted something simple to her Wall, as seen below:

You can clearly see from the address bar in the screenshot that that is – indeed – Kat’s Wall. (And yes, you can feel free to add her up as a friend, if you wish to!). I then headed over to my own profile page, and found what you see next:

I see what Facebook did there, do you? Yes, we’ve always had little notifications on our Wall. However, until a few hours ago that would have only said “You posted a comment on…” It didn’t actually tell the world what I said to her.

You may be scratching your head and asking why this is a big deal. I did the same thing when Kat told me. She then pointed out that her Mom has very few friends on Facebook for a reason… and her page is as locked down and secure as it can be. She doesn’t wish to share her information with anyone. Kat, however, does not have her Wall and information locked down. She is very social, due to the type of work we do. Imagine how upset her very private mom is going to be if the things Kat writes on her Wall starts showing up for all of you to read? Are you seeing where I’m going with this yet?

This is bad juju, Zuck. You thought people were screaming about privacy issues before, but you haven’t seen anything yet. If this doesn’t go back where it came from quickly, I have a feeling there will be a whole lot of screaming going on in a few hours when the world wakes up and posts to Facebook while having their coffee.

What do you think? Is this change something you like or does it give you the heebie jeebies knowing that the private joke your bestie puts on your Wall is going to show up on theirs, as well?

Have We Thrown Privacy Out The Window?

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PEHUB wrote an alarming article last Friday about a lady named Louise who they identified & tracked using Foursquare. When she was confronted with this information, how did she respond? Lamarr was shocked at her answer – are you?

Reporter Leo Hickman outlined how easily he was able to stalk a woman chosen at random, using only her Foursquare account, a glance at her most recent tweets, and the information that Google has gathered about her over time, including her photo. Indeed, when Hickman tells her who he is and how much he’s “managed to deduce about her life simply by using my phone,” Louise doesn’t jump out of her seat and vow to quit using the service immediately. Rather, she calls the revelation a “a little unnerving,” before diving into Foursquare’s “excellent uses for business,” particularly when — ha, ha — it comes to ”stalking” potential recruits.

This is disturbing, to say the least. Have we thrown so much of our privacy out of the window that we don’t care when a total stranger tracks us down? Do we really believe we are invulnerable to becoming a victim of a serious crime due to this? It happens, you know. I’m not being an alarmist. People’s homes are being broken into because they tweet and “check-in” to tell the world they aren’t at home. Others are being stalked and harassed. It’s only a matter of time until we see headlines about someone being murdered or raped because they made themselves an easy target after giving away too much information online.

Yes, it’s fun to check in. Yes, it can be argued that it’s good for business. However, where do you draw the line between keeping yourself and your family safe and having a good time winning badges on sites such as the ones Lamarr discussed in this video?

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Should Mark Zuckerberg Throw in the Towel?

Things didn’t go well for Mark Zuckerberg when he appeared on the D8 stage two days ago. From all angles, he appeared to be fumbling his way through the answers he was giving. He broke out into a cold sweat and had to remove his trademark hoodie. Bloggers around the globe took stabs at Zuck and his team based on his performance. Today, I have seen several posts where people are beginning to wonder whether or not Zuckerberg should continue in his current role with the company he founded as a college student. Likely the most prolific comes from Shel Israel.

Shel unabashedly tells Zuck that it’s time he steps down from his cushy CEO position. The letter to Mark points out the areas in which he is sorely lacking and gives factual statements in support of the claims made. It is written simply – yet powerfully. In closing, Israel tells Zuckerberg: “the tech industry has a long history of young entrepreneurs who were challenged to grow as fast as the companies they had created. Some succeeded and are still at the helms of their corporate ships. Others did not and wisely stepped down to allow firmer hands to guide the ship. It is time for you to do exactly that, Mark. You will be remembered as a brilliant founder. You will have planted seeds to a mighty tree that will live on.”

My first reaction when I began reading was one of shock: who is Shel to tell Mark how to run his company? Who are any of us to give that piece of advice, for that matter? As I continued to read, I found myself nodding in agreement much of the time. Facebook has grown by leaps and bounds. No one can deny that. But has Mark Zuckerberg grown with it? Each of the points made in the open letter are dead on target. Facebook may have billions of users, but how many of those billions aren’t very happy with the way things are going?

For any company to continue to grow and thrive, the people at the top must adapt and change with it. A CEO may start off with a set of ideals and visions. Those tend to change as time goes by and the company is forced to do things differently in order to keep up with the ever-changing demands and needs of their customers and users. We’ve seen big changes and shake-ups within some pretty major companies over the years. Much of the time, they were done in order to help keep driving the companies forward.

Even if Mark chooses to remain in his current role, it would be a great idea if he were to include more people in his inner circle. Bring in some fresh blood, Zuck. Don’t only surround yourself with people who feel the same way you do about the issues you face. You need a team who will think outside the proverbial box, one who will help bridge the huge gap you have created between you and your users. You need people at the top who are going to ensure that Facebook remains the powerful force you have guided it to be by helping it to change to meet the demands of your userbase.

Facebook’s New Privacy Controls

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced yesterday that majors changes to privacy settings on the site would begin rolling out today. The world complained – and Facebook listened. Today, Zuck strode onto the stage at the Facebook headquarters in a grey hoodie to give those assembled the run-down on the new settings. To those in attendance, he appeared calm and confident. Somehow, though, I have a feeling that a bit of that cocky demeanor has shifted in recent weeks. Wouldn’t you lose a bit of your brashness if half the world was breathing down your neck? The changes outlined today are pretty major. That is an indication that Mark knows things were seriously screwed up, and he admitted as much during the press conference.

The changes to the privacy settings went into effect almost immediately once the live event started. As Mark reminded us of the Facebook philosophy that “the world is more open and connected when people are driven to share more,” millions of site users stared in wonderment at how simple it appears to be now. According to Mark, people want to share things… it’s human nature. Facebook wanted to make it possible for us to do so from the very beginning. He strongly believes that the best way to accomplish this is to give us control over what we share.

“We’ve gotten the sense that a lot of what we did – we didn’t communicate well and a lot of things got lost in that. We had to simplify controls and take things back to basics. Some things are valuable to share with everyone… but some things should remain private,” Zuckerberg stated quietly. His voice boomed a little louder as he said that it will eventually “get to a point where it’s so hard to control your information that people end up sharing far less, and that is something I never want to see happen.”

Beginning now, there are three major changes to the privacy control area on Facebook, all of which are outlined in a new guide on the site:

  • Changes will apply to all of your content retroactively. For example, if you change a setting today on your photos to only share them with friends, it will roll back and change all pictures you’ve ever posted to be only shared with friends.
  • These changes made today will apply to all new products going forward. If you later want to share your pictures with the world, you’re going to have to change the setting.

The default settings for all of your content can now be set with one single click. You will have “complete control over who sees your information,” says Zuck.

When it comes to your directory information, you will have less publicly available information, real privacy controls and the necessity for friends to find you. For third party apps, there is some excellent news: there is now one checkbox to turn off instant personalization. Mark says it would be “too confusing” to simply turn that off site-wide and start from scratch. Instead, you’ll have the option to click a box and opt-out of instant personalization. If you do, it will automagically delete all of your information from third party applications. This is fantastic news for many people out there who have been highly ticked off by the way their information was handled and processed by these apps.

All in all, the announcements are good. While Facebook didn’t switch everything to an “opt-in” process as many had hoped, they made every effort to keep their network of users happier.

Thanks to @scobleizer for getting this video of the press conference up so quickly!

Unlock Your Hotel Room with Your Cell Phone

I hate traveling. I love the places that I visit and the people I interact with when I get there. It’s the actual travel part that gets to me every time. There’s always such a rush to do everything, you know? Checking into my hotels is probably my least favorite task. God love ’em for what they do, but the desk clerks always make me batty. They’re always so helpful and happy. I know, it’s a good thing that they’re good at what they do. But when I check in, I’m usually frazzled and just want to pass out on my bed. Like all of you, though, I have to stand in line and then go through the entire process while talking to someone who is entirely too perky. InterContinental Hotels understands my frustrations, and is working on a plan to change things drastically.

Next month, InterContinental Hotels Group will start testing new technology at two of their Holiday Inn locations which allows guests to use their smartphones to unlock the doors to their rooms.

IHG exec Bryson Koehler thinks that the phones may be the perfect answer for weary (and harried) travelers. “The proliferation of smartphones is growing in such a way that we have to look at what people are already bringing with them to make their stay more enjoyable,” he said. “We don’t need to burden people with additional items; it just clutters up their lives. The beauty of the smart phone is that they’ve already got it.”

The test will begin in June at the Holiday Inn Chicago O’ Hare Rosemont and the Holiday Inn Express Houston Downtown Convention Center. To join the trial, participants will need to download an Open Ways app to their phone. Guests will call up the confirmation email on their screen and hold it up to a sensor on the door which will automagically unlock it.

What are your thoughts on this? If you have a smartphone and travel often, is this something you feel you would take advantage of?

You won’t need a smartphone OR a hotel stay to grab the hottest software and apps for your computers and mobile devices.

New Facebook Privacy Settings Tomorrow

Yesterday, we discussed the announcement from Mark Zuckerberg in which he admits that the company has made mistakes when it comes to your privacy settings. Millions of people cannot be wrong when they collectively complain about the way the popular social networking site handles their information and buries privacy settings – making them nearly impossible to find and manage. Zuck and company have historically made sweeping changes without telling members about it ahead of time. There’s always a bit of backlash, but none as loud as what we’ve seen in recent weeks.

Two years ago, Mark told Marshall Kirkpatrick that “privacy control is the vector around which Facebook operates.” When remembering that statement, it is almost impossible to believe we are dealing with the same person. Back then, he talked often of the importance of user privacy. He swore our information would only ever be visible to the people we accept as friends. Perhaps Mark has forgotten he said such a thing? With the way things stand on the site today, nearly everything on your profile is visible and searchable by default. It’s difficult to navigate your way through the various settings and controls to set things up the way you feel they should be, so many people don’t even bother.

The good news is that beginning tomorrow (May 26, 2010) Facebook will begin introducing new simplified privacy controls. Facebook’s vice president of product Chris Cox announced today at TechCrunch Disrupt that the changes will include improved controls. He didn’t give any specific details to the attendees, so I guess we will have to wait and see what tomorrow brings.

Facebook currently has nearly 200 different privacy options and 50 privacy settings. It’s no wonder that the average person gets hopelessly lost when trying to figure out where they need to opt-out. Why the hell do they have to opt-out, anyway? Shouldn’t it be more of an opt-IN scenario? I’ve said many times that you shouldn’t put things on the Internet that you don’t want others to see. However, I know that humans will be human. They will continue to post things that may not be in their best interest. In light of that, the settings should be easy to find, easy to figure out, and they should be all about choosing to opt IN when it comes to sharing information.

You Demand, Facebook Listens

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg really does listen when the world complains about privacy settings on the popular site. Now, he’s promising changes over the coming weeks to address the concerns, promising “a simpler way to control your information.”

Zuck comes right out and admits that Facebook missed the mark when it comes to hitting the privacy control nail on the head. It’s impossible to anticipate how more than 400 million people will want to interact with a website, and they know they guessed wrong. Facebook plans to make it easier for you to control your information by making it simpler to make changes to your settings. The letter also guarantees you an easier way to turn off all third-party services.

The biggest message we have heard recently is that people want easier control over their information. Simply put, many of you thought our controls were too complex. Our intention was to give you lots of granular controls; but that may not have been what many of you wanted. We just missed the mark. We have also heard that some people don’t understand how their personal information is used and worry that it is shared in ways they don’t want. I’d like to clear that up now. Many people choose to make some of their information visible to everyone so people they know can find them on Facebook. We already offer controls to limit the visibility of that information and we intend to make them even stronger.

Did you really expect to see the words “I’m sorry” in the communique somewhere? As Jason Kinkaid put it over on TechCrunch: “expect them to try to push the envelope again in, oh, about six months. Hopefully users will be better educated about their privacy and how to control it when that time comes.” Zuckerberg doesn’t appear to be sorry about anything, nor does he feel they did anything wrong. Facebook pushed… they just didn’t expect their users to push back harder. While the company may make it easier for you to control your privacy soon, expect more unwelcome changes in the future.

Zuck himself says that “People want to share and stay connected with their friends and the people around them. If we give people control over what they share, they will want to share more. If people share more, the world will become more open and connected. And a world that’s more open and connected is a better world.” He and his team truly believes that the world needs to be more open – that YOU need to be more open. They will continue to push the envelope and look for ways that “force” you to be more open than you may even want to be.

Facebook and MySpace are Giving Away Your Information to Advertisers

Tsk, tsk. Did we honestly not see this coming? The Wall Street Journal has uncovered proof that both sites – along with several other popular social networking venues – have been giving away a hell of a lot of information about you to both Yahoo and Google… despite promising that they do not. Both Google’s DoubleClick and Yahoo’s Right Media were identified as being recipients of these little goldmines of information in the form of usernames. That information can lead advertisers to find out your location, your real name, your age and even your occupation. Both companies, of course, deny knowing about (or using) this “extra” information.

All around the Internet, it’s normal for advertisers to receive the address of a page where a user clicked on an ad. However, they normally learn nothing more about the user than an unintelligible string of letters and numbers that are non-traceable. With social networking sites, those addresses themselves usually include the usernames which can direct advertisers right to a profile page chock full of personal information. Along with Facebook and MySpace, there were several other sites found to be participating in this lovely practice: LiveJournal, Hi5, Xanga and Digg are also sending the username or ID number of the page being visited. Even Twitter was found to pass web addresses with usernames of a profile being visited on their site. For most of these sites, the data identified the profile being viewed, but didn’t always show the person who clicked the ad or link. Facebook went further than the others, as usual: in most cases, they signaled which username was doing the clicking along with the name of the person or page being viewed.

The big question of the day is whether or not these sites knew that this type of information was being sent. They, undoubtedly, are going to deny that they had any clue at all. If that is true, though, then I say they need better developers. Any code monkey worth having would have known how to interpret the code they had written, and what it was doing at any given moment.

How Private is Facebook?

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Are you leaving Facebook? With all of the concern over privacy lately, many people are choosing to close their accounts. Others are educating themselves with the changes Facebook has made and making the best choices for their profile pages. Still more people are clueless… they don’t realize what is being shared and with whom. They have no idea how to fix this problem once they do learn of it. They just keep going along with their heads in the sand, and hope for the best. This isn’t the way things should be, folks. You shouldn’t have to be so afraid of what the wrong person might see. The fact is, if you put something online then someone will see it. I have come up with the perfect two-step plan to help solve this problem.


Step 2: Repeat step 1.

It’s that simple, really. I know you think it’s cool to say nasty thing online when you’re a teenager. I know that it’s hilarious when you trash someone on your Facebook page or Twitter account. After all, no one is going to see it, right? Think about this, though… you’re 22 years old, and you just graduated college. You’re looking for the perfect job. However, there are firms out there who make a LOT of money to investigate you – including your online presence. Even when you delete that bad tweet or the Facebook comment you regret, it’s still there somewhere. The damage will have been done. Someone will have been hurt by what you said, or another person will have archived a screenshot of it. It can – and often will – come back to bite you in the ass.

As I already said, many people are confused about Facebook’s privacy changes. The kids on the site are the ones who concern me the most. Many of them truly don’t have a clue. Case in point: my assistant Kat heard about a friend’s teenage daughter who had gotten into trouble with a group of her friends for something they had done at school. Kat logged into Facebook, and went to the girl’s Facebook page, forgetting that they aren’t “friends.” Low and behold, she could read everything on the child’s Wall anyway. What she saw astounded her… there were the other girls who had been caught… posting away on her Wall. One girl bragged about how she is not in trouble with her parents because of the elaborate lies she came up with. True story, folks. And by the way? That girl’s parents now know exactly what their sweet little princess had done, thanks to a screenshot and an email.

Just because you’re sitting in the privacy of your own home doesn’t mean that things you share online won’t be seen by people you don’t want to see them. You could stay offline, certainly. You could quit Facebook if you wanted. Or, you could be just a tad more selective as to what you share. There is such a thing as over-sharing. Do you really think that you’ll be the same person in ten or twenty years that you are now?

The gestures you make online… just assume the world will see them. This isn’t really Facebook’s problem. I’m not saying that they shouldn’t change their policies. I’m saying that at the end of the day, the burden for keeping your information private lies on your own shoulders. You are the one ultimately responsible for what others do – and don’t – see.

Don’t push the responsibility for your privacy onto anyone else. Period. End of story.

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Search Your Public Facebook Updates

As the World continues to talk about Facebook and their privacy practices, a couple of developers have pushed the popular site even closer to the brink of no return. Their new project, Openbook shows that every public status update you make on the site is searchable from outside of Facebook’s confines.

If you search for “cheated test,” you’ll see the two above results at the top of the page. These two kids just publicly admitted that they cheated on a test (or more than one). While the first person appears to be out of school now, that kid whose testament is second is not. Should his teacher happen to see this post (or learn of the site another way), they will likely be in serious trouble. Yes – he deserves to be in trouble for cheating, but that’s not the point. The point is how wrong it is for this information to be searchable within Facebook – let alone outside of it.

The guys behind it, Peter Burns and Will Moffat, have posted a simple explanation: “This is a simple example of just how open facebook has made your information. This data is wide open, and this is one of the least scary uses that anyone will make. If nothing changes, it’s only to get worse. Openbook is a front end for the public search API service that Facebook released on April 21st, 2010. It is intended to draw attention to the information that Facebook now makes publicly available about its users. Our goal is to get Facebook to restore the privacy of this information, so that this website and others like it no longer work.”

You don’t have to be logged in to Facebook to use Openbook, nor do you need to have to have an account. I’m willing to wager that most users on Facebook feel that their “public” status updates will only show up to friends on the site, or even to other FB users. I’d bet a week’s pay that most of them have no idea that their innocent postings, rants and musings are showing up all over the Internet for everyone to read.

What are your thoughts about all of this? Where do you see the future of Facebook heading? If you’re a member of the site, I recommend that you fix your privacy settings and make them as secure as you wish them to be. Likewise, you can always choose to delete your account as many others have already done.

How to Protect Your Privacy Online

Everyone is talking about privacy these days, and no one is happy with the state of things… especially when it comes to Facebook. I told you yesterday on Twitter: There are only two steps you need to follow in order to protect your privacy.

  • Step 2 – See Step 1.

It really is that simple, folks. If you don’t want everyone, their brother and their mother to know something about you, why the hell are you posting it online to begin with? How many of the people who are screaming about having their privacy invaded are the ones who don’t want their bosses (or significant others) to see the pictures from their drunken night in Cancun? If you have secrets you don’t want the rest of civilization to discover, then you should keep that junk to yourself.

How often have you said something on Twitter or Facebook, only to regret it later? Perhaps your boss read your rant about work last week. Or maybe your mom stumbled across something you flippantly tweeted regarding the upcoming family reunion. Whatever the case may be, I have to repeat this again: If you don’t want everyone to know something, then sit down and close your pie hole. That may sound harsh, but apparently harsh is what it takes to get through to some people. There is no undo button on the Internet.

It was interesting to read some of the feedback on my FriendFeed page about this:

In other words, trust no company, trust no person. – Akiva Moskovitz

Side Bar: If you are going to share shit, make sure you know who can see it and take full advantage of any privacy tools. If you can’t lock it down to your liking, see somewhere you can and share there. Failing that, see Step 1. Never assume, it makes an ASS out of U and ME – Johnny Worthington

I’ve been saying this for years – Jesse Stay

Not that what I say matters – Jesse Stay

Or: Even vaults and safety deposit boxes can be broken into. It’s about risk and trust… and know each of them – Johnny Worthington

It’s not about the Sharing. It’s about the Basic Personal Info. – Christopher Galtenberg

If you don’t want Basic Personal Info shared online, don’t put it there. Again, it’s about risk. There is risk in leaving your credit card statements sitting in your letterbox or leaving your wallet on a counter for more that a sec. Risk Assessment. – Johnny Worthington

If the internet can’t deal with personal private data, it won’t work. I thought you felt this way too, JW. – Christopher Galtenberg

Christopher, the phone company can’t guarantee 100% security on calls (fixed lines or cellular), the mail can be tampered with, offices can be bugged, your baggage is scanned at the airport and your wallet can be stolen. No system, physical or digital, is 100% secure. China hacked Gmail. Shit, courier pigeons can be shot down. Since EVERYTHING is <100%, each person must undertake a risk assessment when sharing critical data. If you must have 100%, then a communication channel that is run by a series of commercial entities and less than stellar governments probably isn’t for you. That doesn’t mean it’s 0% secure (probably more like 90-95% secure) but looking for a perfect solution is futile unless you control every point, A to B. – Johnny Worthington

By your logic, JW, everything is actually safe (equally trustworthy, relatively) – Christopher Galtenberg

Not exactly. I trust my bank more than I do Facebook or Gmail… but I don’t assume my bank is just 100% safe. Levels of trust. I have performed risk assessments on each online entity and determined what I would feel comfortable about disclosing. – Johnny Worthington

Anything can be hacked. Anything can leak. Trust is a risk and some levels adjust over time, usually down to lower levels. – manielse (Mark Nielsen)

Back to the original post: that’s how I’ve always treated the Internet. Those MySpace/Facebook kiddies who have to show the whole world the most embarrassing stuff they do always appalled me. I’ve always been careful what I share online, even if I sometimes use my blogs or Twitter as a soapbox. – Dennis Jernberg

Indeed! *thinks back to the DYSP video* – Johnny Worthington

@Chris: And that, of course, is why we have to be so careful. Forethought… – Dennis Jernberg

What are your thoughts regarding privacy online? What measures do you take to make sure your information – and life – is secure?

YouTube Unlisted Videos Work Well for Teachers

Melinda is a teacher in the Bay Area whose class created videos as part of a project. She and her students wanted to be able to share their media with friends and family, but no one wanted the videos to be made public. Melinda decided to reach out to YouTube to ask for a solution. The folks behind the scenes waved a magic wand, and introduced us to the “Unlisted” option today.

When you upload a video to YouTube, you can now choose from three options, instead of the usual two. In the past, you could make your video public, or share it with only twenty five people. However, even with the limited number of views the content would still show up on search engines and in the user’s home page. With the Unlisted feature, everything has changed.

When you choose the Unlisted option, you will be given a direct link to the video. It will not appear in any of the public pages, in search results or on your personal page. It’s essentially a private video – only accessible to people who possess that direct link. Keep in mind that everyone who has the link can watch whatever content you have uploaded, so only give it out to people you trust.

There are no view limits with the Unlisted option, and having an actual YouTube account isn’t required. YouTube spokesperson Chris Dale says: “Unlisted videos are treated just like any other YouTube video on YouTube and are subject to the same Community Guidelines and DMCA complaint procedures. Users can flag videos that they believe violate our Community Guidelines. The YouTube team reviews flagged videos 24 hours a day 7 days a week and removes those videos which violate our Guidelines. Users can also file DMCA complaints against unlisted videos that they believe violate their copyrights. We do not allow users with any Community Guidelines or copyright strikes against their accounts to upload unlisted videos.”

The new unlisted option will not change how YouTube will be scanning uploaded videos for terms of service violations. The new option has no real impact on what’s going on behind the scenes. This option is absolutely perfect for situations like Melinda had with her class. You could also use it to share recordings from family events with those who couldn’t join you… or record yourself singing a sappy love song and share it with your significant other.

Facebook and Privacy: Will the Twain Never Meet?

This guest post is contributed by Shannon Wills, she writes on the topic of Internet Service Providers . She welcomes your comments via email.

It’s an issue that’s dominating headlines on the web these days; it’s raking up the muck in the world of social media; even so, Facebook doesn’t seem to be bothered about all the controversy that its privacy issues (or lack of it) is generating. Just a few months ago, we were shocked at how private email messages sent within Facebook were sent to the wrong recipient; now it’s the turn of private chat messages and friend requests to be visible to your friends, if you knew how to make the right tweaks.

Of course Facebook fixed these security holes in a matter of hours, but the question we need to ask ourselves is – If this could happen twice over a period of three months, how many more security lapses can we expect in the future? How many of these will go unreported and stay unfixed? And even if they are reported and fixed, how many thousands of lives would have been affected in the interim?

The problem with social networks is that they allow other people control over your life. Of course, most problems arise because people are not careful about what they post online or because they leave their pages open for all and sundry to access. But then, what if you’re discreet about your postings, information and photos and have all your privacy settings in place so that only the people you allow access can see your page and all that is on it? Does that mean you’re automatically safe? Apparently not, because Facebook has this autonomous policy of revamping its privacy controls every now and then, and information that you had set as private is now open to the public by default. If you want privacy, you’re forced to go into the settings and change them again.

For example, the latest revamp allowed Facebook users to show up on public search listings even though they wanted to be visible only to their friends. And since there was no real intimation sent out (Facebook did send out vague emails about the new policies, but even these were hidden in a folder called Updates in your Messages. Not many people would bother to check this area because it does not show up in your Notifications. And as a result, what you assumed was private was now part of the public domain.

For the net savvy user, this is a minor irritant because they’re aware of all the latest security issues and they take care of the necessary fixes immediately. But for the average user, it’s a disaster waiting to happen if the wrong people gain access to information on their profile – relationships could be ruined, jobs lost, and feelings hurt in the process.

But no, Facebook does not care that most its users are not savvy enough to figure out that they have to opt out of certain privacy options, and no amount of protests or criticism is going to stop this giant of a social network from rolling on to boost its visibility on and dominance of the web. The only thing that could possibly help is the mass exodus of many of its users, but then, we’re an addicted lot – we may complain every now and then, but like any normal human being, we resign ourselves to the situation and go on to posting the next status update or comment, and privacy issues are relegated to a corner of the mind.