Online contact databases.
….a ‘billion’ other applications where you enter private information about yourself, your family, your friends, your likes, dislikes and preferences, and on and on and on…
We participate in these things because they are fun.
They make it easier to connect (on a professional or personal level) with other people.
And, they make it easier to keep track of the information we find useful.
Of course, doing this ‘online’ protects us from loosing our data should our own system go down. And, we can log-in from anywhere in the world!
What could be better?
As much as these are useful tools, before we pump our information into them, we ought to ask ourselves one simple question: “Would I sell this information?”
If the answer is ‘yes’ – no problem.
But, if the answer is ‘no’ – don’t put that info anywhere where it is accessible through the web!
Because, whether you like it or not, this information you enter into online sites about yourself – and all your associates: family, friends, business – becomes public.
Even if you select ‘private’ settings, not displaying all of this information to anyone viewing these sites, the information is fully visible and accessible to anyone working on the ‘back end’ of the site. This includes the people who run and administer the site as well as the contractors and independents who develop applications for that site!
And, have no illusions: these people make most of their livelihood through datamining . Some use the results of their datamining simply to help them ‘tailor’ applications to ‘your liking’ – but, they do retain the original information for possible future use. Others are less scrupulous…
Of course, any system is only as strong as its weakest link!
Do you know the people who work for these companies? What kinds of security clearance these people have – if any? What kind of assurances you have that your private information is not being sold (not necessarily by the companies, but, perhaps, by greedy 3rd party employees)?
In other words, even if you don’t sell the information yourself, somebody can.
And if they can – they will.
Because in today’s world, information is the most potent currency.
We have all heard about people who kept ‘tweeting’ their location – so thieves knew they were not home and could break in without impunity. Well – if you have a GPS in each of your vehicles which is monitored by a 3rd party (for your safety, of course), are their employees not able to also see when you away from home? Are you certain not one of their employees is on the payroll of organized crime?
Of course, that is just a mundane tip of an anything-but-mundane ice berg!
What about information about the people you do business with – or ones you socialize with? Would you sell those lists? Would you sell the list of all the people you are related to – and how?
Because if you publish them – and, yes, putting them anywhere ‘web-accessible’ is equivalent to publishing them – somebody will!
So – what sparked this reaction?
The other day, I got yet another invitation to yet another ‘networking site’. It was from a person I highly respect, whom I have had professional dealings with for years and whom I have also enjoyed socializing with. And, yes, he is likely to be one of the backers of this particular networking site.
Once I accepted the invitation, the site offered to migrate my ‘contacts’ into my profile – and it offered all the ‘major’ email services as options I could ‘click’ to have ‘contacts’ migrated from into this one central place I could easily access from ‘anywhere’ by just logging in. OK – I admit it – I may have accepted the invitation to join, but, I was not about to hand over all my address books!
Despite not having migrated a single one of my contacts onto the site, just by the virtue 0f my name and email address, it ‘suggested’ potential ‘people’ I ought to ‘link with’ as I might know them – and asked if it ought to categorize them as ‘business’, ‘friends’ or ‘family’. Lo and behold – there were very many people on this ‘would you like to link up with/you may know’ list whom I have worked with, some of them years ago….
Now, aside from my name and email, all other info I entered into the site was made up (yeah – so sue me!). Thus, my name and email were the only two pieces of info this site had to work with.
Still, it could accurately re-create a large portion of my professional contacts, going years back in time!
Take a moment to ponder this.
What a powerful tool this is!
As to who is wielding it, to what purposes – and with what security – I cannot tell…
So, I repeat: if you are not comfortable selling a piece of information about yourself – don’t make it web-accessible!