Social Media – Don’t give away more than you expect

It could be argued that in the age of Google, Facebook and Twitter, privacy is an outdated concept. Millions of people willingly share almost everything about their lives. They upload scores of photographs and update their Facebook status and tweet at regular intervals throughout the day.

Nearly every website we visit is shared with Google. And as we trawl through the wider web, we are leaving footprints which allow our personal data to be collected by companies with which we never thought we would share our lives.

For most of us Google is the gateway to the web and the majority of us don’t use web addresses anymore; instead we simple type a name or keywords in the Google search box. But each time we do this it is being recorded and a profile of our habits is made. Details of websites we have visited are stored and then linked to our identity through any account you have with Google, such as Gmail or YouTube.

For those that use Facebook it can become the primary means of communicating with friends and family, but every time you log on, you are giving more of your personal data away, which Facebook uses to sell targeted ads. Each time you click a Facebook button, it is added to your personal profile. Each time you chat to a friend on Facebook that is added as well and the friends that appear on your home page is determined by analysing all the interactions you make on Facebook. It means that Facebook has thousands of sets of data on all of its users.

For most people, the ease of sharing information is the very reason for using Facebook, and the free publicity on Twitter and YouTube can allow the user to reach a much wider audience. But the reality is that the content of your Facebook status or tweet can find its way to an unexpected and unintended recipient. Revelations in the media of unguarded comments put on Twitter and an increasing amount of employment cases citing the use of social media as evidence of misconduct serve as reminders that the use of social media can sometimes backfire.

Of course, in most cases social media is harmless and the information being recorded by companies is for the purpose of selling adverts or improving the technology they provide. However if you feel that you want to reclaim your privacy it may be time for you to think more carefully about how you use Google and the information you are putting on Facebook and Twitter.

by Janet Lane from the King’s Lynn office