It’s not about You or Why we need a new Mindset

Social Media has changed the way we interact with each other forever. We are living in a totally different world than maybe two years ago and the end of this social shift is not even at sight.

But most of us still behave as if we were living in a world without Social Media and that can be very dangerous.

A couple of years ago the situation was like this: you surfed the internet without anti virus or firewall on your PC, you got infected or hacked and that was the end of the story. Sure, there were already trojan horses which scraped the email addresses for spam etc but the effects were pretty much localized around you.

Today we are in a completely different situation. We are all so closely connected with one another that everything you do, or not do in terms of security, might also affect your entire network.

Therefore we need to change our mindset to

It’s not about You, it’s about your network.

Many people I know still seem to let all cautiousness go as soon as they connect to the Internet. This phenomenon is as old as the internet itself I guess but it gets more and more dangerous for the whole Social Media ecosystem.

Attacks on your private data come from all angles these days. From the classic link bait and scam emails for password phishing to hacking attacks over Skype and Twitter via malware links. In these cases you just need to turn on your common sense. If you get an email from one of your contacts using all of a sudden expressions like “Hello my friend” what your contact never did before you should not necessarily click on the link he/she send you, should you?

I could write pages about all this but I think these problems are easier to fix than the ones we will face in the coming months. As you have control over the situation, you can decide to click this link or not. But the new “thread” for your privacy lies somewhere else, in the hands of your contact.

Facebook recently changed the privacy settings. It seemed to be not that much of a big deal for most people but if you take a closer look and read about the effects on your privacy you should think again.

And if we are already on Facebook, did you know what kind of information you are sharing with each quizz and game you take there? More importantly, did you know that you share information of your contacts with those providers? Even if your privacy settings are on the highest level, Facebook does not care because games and quizzes just override your settings. You can take a very interesting quizz (I know, contradiction but it’s from the American Civil Liberties Union) called What do Quizzes really know about You? and I think you might be at least a bit suprised.

Ever take one of those Facebook quizzes to find out which superhero most resembles your dog, or have a friend who seems to spend most of their life doing so? Then you might be in for a surprise when you take this quiz and learn just how much of your personal information these quizzes can access.

Even if your Facebook profile is “private,” when you take a quiz, an unknown quiz developer could be accessing almost everything in your profile: your religion, sexual orientation, political affiliation, pictures, and groups. Facebook quizzes also have access to most of the info on your friends’ profiles. This means that if your friend takes a quiz, they could be giving away your personal information too.

But don’t take our word for it – take this quiz and see for yourself!

(And, yes, we know it’s a little weird to warn you about Facebook quizzes by asking you to take a Facebook quiz – but at least you know who we are and that we have a real privacy policy that we’re committed to upholding. Can you say the same for every unknown author of every quiz you or your friends take?)

Yesterday I came across the newest information harvester on Mashable. The Star Wars Death Star Superlaser lets you target your friends homes on Facebook or by entering their details and blow them up with the Death Star Planet destroying Superlaser we saw in the movies. In fact you will see the exact same scene from the Star Wars movie just with the coordinates of your friends home. Of course, the experience is “best when you connect the application with your Facebook account”.

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

It’s a marketing campaign of Adidas in cooperation with Facebook and Google, the two biggest information harvesters on the planet. So what happens here? Well, although the idea is really fun and appealing think about it twice. You are entering the complete information of your contact including name, address and email address. This is marketing list gold standard. Adidas, Lucas Films, Facebook and Google now have complete data sets about your contacts.

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The important thing here is that this is the next big step. They are not collecting data anymore by somehow flying unerneath the radar, they animate people to bring the data to them voluntarily. But not only their own data, the data of their contacts or better “friends”.

Yes, I know many of you will say I am over reacting but I think there lies the problem. We are responsible for our network. If someone shares information with you does not mean you can share it, even if it might be fun, with others. This person trusts you. If you start sharing the data you are misusing this trust. Simple as that.

So for me the headline of this Mashable post should be “Don’t like your Facebook Friends? Share their data here!”

Bottom line for this post: like it or not we are losing more and more control over our privacy especially if we don’t care for the privacy of our contacts at first. You can be as restrictive as you want, if your network does not care it basically is an useless effort. Therefore again: we need a new mindset. We cannot act as individuals anymore we have to think as a community. Everyone should be their brother’s / sister’s keeper.

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  • vikramadhiman

    Privacy Protect in a Networked World – do you smell a product opportunity here?

    • http://kirstenwinkler.com KirstenWinkler

      Hmm, it would be definitely interesting to know who is publishing your personal data without your notice. So yes, there is an opportuniy I'd say.

  • http://website-in-a-weekend.net/ Dave Doolin

    The future is getting more and more interesting at a faster and faster rate.

    My motto: “If it's digital, it's public.”

    Which means I'm really careful about what I allow to be put online.

    • http://kirstenwinkler.com KirstenWinkler

      But how can you control what your network is putting online about you? As long as you can decide about your data, everything is pretty much ok. But as soon as others start to publish your data somewhere it gets tricky.

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