Doesn't privacy start with you?

Paranoia, anger, and fear--all posted on a status update. Why don't you just change your privacy settings?
Written by Howard Lo, Contributor

Urgent! Post this as your Facebook status update and it will protect you from all future privacy changes, content changes, and impending Mayan apocalypses: "Declaring things on Facebook status updates creates defensible legal positions–-fact–-exactly like if you ask an undercover policeman whether he is a cop then he must tell you the truth else it's entrapment."

It is funny how people are vociferous about perceived privacy violations, expend energy drumming up online petitions to ban <insert social networking site> changes while trying to spread said petitions using the same networking site, and update their status messages to disclaimers that have no legal basis. What people don’t do enough of is take control themselves and change their privacy settings.

Admittedly in the past it was a cumbersome affair, wading through screen after screen of settings, making adjustments, and then looking for the all-important "View my profile as…" (boss, girlfriend, ex-boyfriend, public, crush and etc.).

Since it's the start of a new year, it's a good time to do some digital housekeeping.  Facebook recently made the privacy settings a lot easier to get to. My assumption, based on recent features, is that they're gearing up to make it simpler to see your past activities and they're hoping people will adjust privacy settings beforehand so that there won't be outrage when an old wall posting surfaces and someone confuses it as a private message (sound familiar?). It's good they have simplified it into three large categories (who can see what you posted, who can contact you, and how you can block someone)--accessible from the little padlock icon next to your name on the top right of the page.

Why talk about privacy controls? We have all been happily giving location data to Foursquare, random streams of thought to Twitter, opinions to Yelp, search terms to Google, and who knows what else.  Now that these guys have amassed tons of our likes, comments, and connections, it's only a matter of time before they share it (and thus monetize it). Which is totally fine; after all we're using these services for free so in a way all we can offer them is our data. It's an exchange. Thankfully we have some control over what is shared, and while it's easy to think, "Oh, let’s just trust them do the right thing with our data," our definition of "right" versus a company's definition may differ.

With years of your data stored in their servers, rather than only focusing on showing current activities, you can be sure that the big boys will mine opportunities for how to highlight the past. Best be prepared!

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