trust letters

Trust in Me

Bill Nelson Apr 10, 2012 10:23:41 AM

Contents

Trust in me, I’m the social media vendor providing this FREE service because I want to make you happy.  I know that all of this infrastructure and the thousands of employees I have working for me are costing a small fortune, but I do this because I care …. I care about YOU!

Trust in me, I’m the software development company who develops these FREE applications because we are looking out for you.  We know that you need something entertaining to do or something informative to occupy your time.  We ask you questions about your preferences so that we can customize the software for YOU.  That’s the only reason, trust us.

Trust in me, I’m a one man developer operating out of my house creating these FREE applications so that you don’t have to pay for the premium ones.  I have no visions of grandeur for myself.  I have no dreams of making money for myself, I am doing this for you!

REALLY?  No catches at all?  Awesome, where do I sign up?

I learned a long time ago that there is no such thing as a free lunch, yet people continue to be duped into believing lies to the contrary.  Let me be clear,

Privacy is an illusion in our current social media landscape.  Period. 

If you think that these FREE services are free then think again; they are anything but.  In fact, social media companies and application developers are making money off of the very things that are most precious to you – they are making money by selling information about you and your loved ones.  Whether they are selling this information directly or indirectly through advertising, these entities are collecting thousands of pages of information about you – enough to fill volumes of books.  Don’t believe me, read Kim Cameron’s article, 24 Year Old Student Lights Match:  Europe Versus Facebook.

Your preferences, your habits, your activity – essentially your life – is meticulously tracked by social media sites and used to predict your behavior.  With this information in hand, they seek out those who are looking to target those with this behavior or are willing to pay to gain access to these people.  It is a well-known fact that social media sites may know more about you than your own family members do, but social media is not the only culprit.  “Real world” businesses have been tracking your behavior for years and are just as savvy as social media sites (see How Target Figured Out A Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did).  The amount and types of data associated with social media sites is much greater than that obtained in brick and mortar stores as it is more plentiful, easier to gather, easier to store, and easier to analyze.

In George Orwell’s book, 1984, we were worried about a Big Brother that we feel never came.  In reality, however, he came and brought his whole family with him and they are all watching us.  Get used to it, or take the steps necessary to protect your information assets the same way you protect the money in your bank or your legal documents.

Last month, I wrote a blog entry entitled Which Line Do You Want To Be In? in which I stated that people are

willing to trade important things in life for short term gain

Unfortunately when convenience and privacy are at odds with each other, people tend to throw privacy out the window in trade for convenience.  Are these people oblivious or do they simply feel that they have no choice.  Have they made a conscious decision or are they simply uneducated to the risks associated with privacy breaches?  I tend to believe that most people are too trusting and do not know (or simply do not understand) what information is collected about them and what happens when their information is inadvertently shared.  You can classify these people based on age and/or knowledge of technology as follows:

  • Typical Kids – who do not yet understand privacy implications
  • Typical Adults – who may understand privacy, but don’t understand technology and how it can affect their privacy
  • Tech-Savvy Adults – who understand privacy AND take an active role in protecting themselves on social media sites

For those of you who fall in the third category, I know that I am preaching to the choir here, but unfortunately the vast majority of people do not attend the church where this message is being preached.  There are still many people who have never heard the message or if they have, they simply choose to ignore it.  Is it because they disagree that information is being tracked?  Or is it maybe that privacy policies on most social media web sites are simply too difficult to read and/or understand and it is simply easier just to “click through” to get to the site that we want.

I once heard that marketing agencies build their message so that a person with a 7th Grade education can understand it.  That is an unfortunate statement to the intelligence of the average American.  Unfortunately, it is also a statement that many companies rely on when crafting their legal documents.

Suffice to say, if the price is FREE, it may be costing you dearly.

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