Friday, October 27, 2006

Privacy and safety on the Internet


In a recent workshop on social networking tools, I talked about privacy. For everyone, privacy and safety on the Internet are huge issues, yet they are issues that we face everyday in our brick-n-mortar worlds.

I think of privacy online as being like riding a subway -- an activity that I enjoy. When you're on the subway, you need to be aware of what's going on around you. If you're with friends or colleagues, you need to know where they are, since friends will watch out for each other. You need to keep your things (pocketbook, shopping bags, luggage, etc.) close you, if not "attached" to you. Somethings (e.g., wallet, passport) you need to keep close to your body, and perhaps in a pocket or pouch that is not easy for someone else to reach. Of course, there are somethings that you need to keep hidden. For example, you don't want to flash your expensive jewelry or cash.

Privacy is also like coming home from Las Vegas. Many of us have heard the saying -- What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas! In other words, there is no need to tell everyone everything. Somethings are personal and private, and should stay that way.

Finally, you see the word "copyright" on the slide. Copyright has nothing to do with privacy, but if you want to remain safe (and out of court), you'll not violate the copyright (property) of others.

So when you are online, remember:
  • There is no need to tell everything about yourself.
  • You need to protect those things you value (e.g., your money and your identity).
  • You must know who your friends are, as well as those colleagues you can trust. Please watch out for them and ask that they do the same for you.
  • Respect the property of others.
  • Finally, remember to enjoy what you're doing.
One person asked how I deal with privacy and security online. Here are some of the things I do:
  • I protect my passwords.
  • I use passwords that are a combination of letters, numbers and special characters, thus making them harder for someone to break.
  • I don't have any online information that discloses my street address. Actually, even in printed literature about me and my company, there is not a street address (only a post office box).
  • Even in Flickr, there aren't clues to exactly where I live.
  • I "talk" a lot online, but don't talk a lot about the details of my life. Actually, I know my personal life is interesting only to a few people, so why bore everyone else!
  • I use an alternate e-mail (Yahoo) addresses when I think I'm giving out it out to a place that may cause me to be spammed.
  • I think before posting, e-mailing, etc. about what I'm saying and who I'm saying it to. (This also means I think about the tone of my message as well as the words.)
The hard part about privacy and security online is that you have to be constantly aware of what you're doing. But isn't that also the same as in real life? If we can have our guard up when we're walking down the street, we should be able to have our guard up as we "walk" through the Internet.

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1 comment:

Jill Hurst-Wahl said...

I received an e-mail message from someone (a photographer) who said that because his photo studio is in his home, information about where he lives is on the Internet. For him, that's been an okay move. Hopefully he has thought about the risks and alternatives. What is important is the THINKING and not just disclosing everything because you can. Think about the implications...mitigate your risks if possible...and remain aware.