Facebook only takes advantage of idiots

24 05 2010

I realize that this bit of sage wisdom a little late in coming from me, but it must be said. If there is something you do not want others to know or see, do not put it on the internet. It is especially risky to put personal information and incriminating media on a site owned and operated by an “amoral, Asperger’s-like entrepreneur,” as Jason Calacanis described him.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and CEO, has developed a reputation as of late for not caring about others’ privacy. Examples would be Facebook’s new, cryptic privacy settings that automatically expose all of your information to the world or attempting to screw over its number-one game developer, Zynga, the creator of Farmville.

If there is one lesson to be learned by end users from all of this, it is to always watch what you put on the web, regardless of how secure or sophisticated the service in question might seem. There are certain details of your life that you would not want to get out into the open and the best way to ensure your private information remains to private is to never share it on the web.

For example, I am comfortable sharing the location where I live. There are nearly 2 million people living in the Indianapolis metropolitan area and it is unlikely that anyone could find me and threaten my personal safety. I imagine it will give someone reading it an idea about my background and who I am, which is a primary goal of social media. I do not share my AIM screen name, mailing address, email address, or phone number anywhere, as these are pieces of personal information that I would not feel comfortable strangers having. Also, Facebook’s ads hook into profile information and target ads appropriately. I do not like to think about who else sees that data. Therefore, I do not share anything vital.

There will always be people like Mark Zuckerberg out there and it is important to guard what you share online very carefully. It can be very easy and satisfying to fill out all those fields, but it could come around to bite you in the end. Show restraint and do not share too much about yourself on the web.

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