Friday, May 4, 2012


"You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it." This infamous statement was uttered by Scott McNealy, CEO of Sun Microsystems back in 1999. His statement was much maligned by the press at the time. He didn’t quite mean it they way it sounded but that does not matter. His words are true so get over it.

Our digital lives are being exposed to the rest of the world more and more.  Many times, that is intentional through our Facebook posts, for example. But much of our private lives are being exposed in ways you may not have imagined. Let’s take a look at some of those information leaks and what you can and cannot do about it.

Location-Based Services. I recently checked into my Google Plus account (Google’s answer to Facebook that I never use) and was a bit taken back at the fact that my phone had announced my arrival at my office in Madison every day for the past few months. I have no idea what I must have clicked to enable that “feature” but it was a bit disconcerting. This is harmless enough but what if Google or Facebook or Foursquare publicly announced “Jim checked into ‘Lauderdale County Jail”  when I was there to pay a traffic ticket? I’d have some splainin’ to do for sure.

Anyway, there are a variety of ways your computer or smart phone or even your friends can report your location to others. There is much you can do about this kind of stuff. Check your smart phone’s privacy settings and uncheck stuff that should not be checked. Set the privacy settings in Facebook Places to block other people from posting your location without permission. Be wary of linking your Foursquare account to Facebook or Twitter—that will reveal your location to the world.

Facebook apps.  You know those annoying “invitations” you get from your friends who seem to have way too much time on their hands and seem to play every blasted game available on Facebook? Your friends don’t actually “invite” you to play the games. The “apps” they’ve installed on Facebook do that for them every time they sign up for a new game. Those apps are generally bad news for your privacy. Not only do many of these “free” games collect data about you such as your address, phone number, all your contacts, age and so forth, but they have been guilty of selling that information to others. What can you do about it?  STOP INSTALLING THOSE SILLY APPS. I know Farmville is addictive but it is a soul-sucking demon and you are exposing your friends to it, too..  
(Excuse the interruption, Jimbo, but we’ve been watching you and you seemed to have reached your 500 word limit for this column. Let’s finish up and get back to pretending to work, shall we?)  Hey!  I DO work! All the time! I . . . (Dude, you’re not fooling us. We’ve got pictures of you drooling while napping in your office thanks to your webcam. You want us to share that with both your readers?). Fine! I’ll continuing my fear mongering next time.

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