Friday, May 21, 2010

Trolling for your Information

Two stories caught my eye this week that I found very alarming. The first was about Google intercepting WiFi signals with its Street View cars. Apparently Google was doing more than just taking pictures of your house for its Street View version of Google Maps (see Google Wi-Fi Breach Spurs Calls For Investigation). They gathered network names and computer information from unsecured wireless networks as they drove by. Shame on Google!! For this and many other reasons, you should encrypt your wireless signal. If you don't know how, contact the people who sold you your router or contact your Internet Service Provider.

The other disturbing story that surfaced this week is Facebook, MySpace and several other social media Web sites have giving personal information to their advertising companies without permission (see Facebook, MySpace Confront Privacy Loophole). This is very scary on two fronts. Firstly, these social media giants are doing what they want even though their own policies and code of conduct statements claim to protect your privacy. It seems to me that they think they have become so powerful that they can do what they want with your data, even though they have clear guidelines for protecting all the private information you have provided them. Secondly, there does not seem to be the huge public outcry against these companies. I think this is because services like Google and Facebook have been integrated into modern culture and no one wants to take them on because of there size, popularity and perhaps because they have become part of the extended, albeit tech, family. I'm sure if you found out that your local pharmacy was giving out your medical information to pharmaceutical companies, there would be blood in the streets.

Several months ago, I removed my Facebook account for this very reason. For Facebook to be effective, it requires personal information. I certainly could control what information I placed on Facebook but what I could not control (at that time) was what others were saying about me, how they were linking to me, and also, I could not control what Facebook was doing with all this information. Now that I know what they are doing, I'm glad I made my decision to leave. 

Although, I'm fairly confident these news reports are not going to cause an exodus from Facebook and Google, learn to be careful with your more precious items - your personal information and your privacy.


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