Social networking & the Internet is beginning to scare me...

Although this post is not strictly about Web Accessibility or the online User Experience, I thought it may be of interest to my readers. The thing is, social networking and the Internet is beginning to scare me.

A few weeks ago I received an email which recommended I become ‘linked-in’ with several people. The people were a mixture of work colleagues from all different sources- people who I have worked with, design agencies I have used and people I have emailed or are stored in my work and personal email address book. I don’t even use linked-in!

Linked In logo
It seems that the information collated in this email was drawn together from my web browsing behaviour, webmail use and the (limited) information I have disclosed on my social networking pages. It just goes to show how your ‘personal’ information can be used as your ‘Online Profile’ develops.

Coincidentally, this week Google boss Eric Schmidt warned of the use of social media, and predicts that people may have to change their names in the future to escape from their Online past…

"I don't believe society understands what happens when everything is available, knowable and recorded by everyone all the time," he says. He predicts, apparently seriously, that every young person one day will be entitled automatically to change his or her name on reaching adulthood in order to disown youthful hijinks stored on their friends' social media sites.”

Source : The Wall Street Journal.

Eric Schmidt image

Google is everywhere, and their products are superb. The Chrome browser is lightning fast, Gmail is a great email tool , Google Maps is very useful (and fascinating), YouTube is a great resource for learning and general amusement and Picasa is a easy to use photo album tool (with face recognition technology… to automatically identify you and your friends in photos). However, when using these tools, the personal information you disclose is immense… Google knows your browsing habits, your interests, your friends, what you email about, what makes you laugh, what you want to know more about, where you walk/drive to and even what you look like. Now combine this with your information, updates, groups, relationship status, employer and friends on Facebook / Twitter / Bebo and builds up a very detailed profile about you.

What makes this even more concerning is the use of mobile technology, especially running Android (the Google Operating System). Not only does Google know your habits when you’re using your computer, they also know your activities when out and about…

“Let's say you're walking down the street. Because of the info Google has collected about you, "we know roughly who you are, roughly what you care about, roughly who your friends are." Google also knows, to within a foot, where you are. “

Source : The Wall Street Journal.

Android Logo
The information you share Online may not be anything you want to hide, and most likely will not be malicious or illegal, but do you really want strangers to know about you? In the same way that in the ‘real world’ most people would be wary of giving strangers a handful of old photographs of themselves or discuss their date of birth, first pet and employer, we need to be more cautious with our behaviour online.

So what can you do to prevent an ‘Online Profile’ being built about you? Very little, if you do want to take an active part in the Internet and Online Communities.

My advice is to always be very wary of the information you disclose online, and to always ensure you sign out of social networking and email tools when you have finished your session. And most of all, be conscious & vigilant of how the information disclosed could be used as part of your wider Online Profile.

I hope this post (rant?) has been of interest, and as always, I would love to hear your thoughts and comments.

Posted byCharlie M at 08:47  


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