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Protect Yourself Online – Just Common Sense

There is a lot of hysteria about online privacy. It’s easy to understand when there’s an ad scrolling across the top of your screen referencing the words you just typed into the email you’re composing. Creepy. I mean, if they’re watching what you type, what else are they doing with your private information? I guess It’s time for another lesson in common sense.

First let’s review the Internet marketing model: give people a stripped down version of your application for free, subsidize it with advertising, and offer a premium version for a fee. Remember that old saw ‘you get what you pay for’. So, common sense LESSON ONE: If the information you are storing online is private, DON’T USE A FREE SERVICE. If you read the Terms of Use for the free services on Apple, Google, Microsoft and others, you will find that you essentially forfeit all your rights to the data you create, store and exchange.

The pay services are completely different. For example, the ‘terms of use’ for Google Apps preserves your privacy – no ads, no snooping your content, the same as if it were stored on your own computers.

While wearing my Captain Obvious costume – let me drop common sense LESSON TWO on you: DON’T BROADCAST PERSONAL INFORMATION ON SOCIAL MEDIA. You might think that you are only sharing the information with those you have explicitly invited to the party – but, don’t forget about the folks ‘hosting’ the party. They’re watching you. It is after all, social media – not ‘private’ media. Of course, this would also violate lesson #1 above, about posting private information on free services.

Common sense LESSON THREE: ONCE YOU POST IT – YOU CAN’T TAKE IT BACK. When you post something whether it’s on Facebook, a blog, your own web site, or anywhere on the web, it’s just like sending an email, text message or Tweet in that you have no idea, or control over what anyone does with that information while it’s available. They can download it, print it or broadcast it to the world. The can do this anytime. That intimate picture you sent to your boyfriend could wind up on the Internet after that messy break-up you didn’t see coming.

So let’s review:

  1. Don’t post private information on a free service.
  2. Don’t post private information on Facebook or other social media.
  3. There’s no do-overs on the Internet (or SMS, TXT or Twitter)

Next time I’ll talk about tools and techniques you can use to protect yourself on the web.

For more posts about Google Apps and the cloud go to: CloudOPX.com

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