Tech Tuesday: Privacy, Part 3 – Selecting Social Media Websites

Each Tuesday, pleasureinlearning brings you Tech Tuesday.  Come back each week for more ways to become efficient and effective in your use of technology. 


You hear a lot of talk about computer security and personal privacy.  This series will explore privacy and the role you play as a consumer and as an individual.

Social media comprises virtual communities where people can connect and share. Some examples are Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, MySpace (yes, it still exists), and reddit. The tricky part about social media is that our privacy is threatened by (1) the companies that we choose as intermediaries and also by (2) the ways that we utilize social media.

If we are going to connect with others through social media, it is a necessary evil that a third party (the social media vendor) will have access to our data.  Thus, we must carefully choose which social media vendors we will use. Ideally, we would rigorously assess companies against the published Bill of Rights and we would pore over the company’s data use or privacy policy. In many ways that is impractical.

I like to keep my decision process simple. I ask myself two questions.

  1. Does this company have a reputation they need to uphold? – If the answer to the question is yes, then I have a higher degree of certainty that the personal data I DO give them will be guarded carefully.  Companies that are widely used and are publicly traded are generally a safe bet.
  2. Am I comfortable with the minimum data required? – To sign up for Facebook, you must part with your name, email address, date of birth and gender. For me, Facebook would be an automatic NO GO if they required my credit card number to sign up.  My email address is a no-brainer and my name is nearly so.  I’m sufficiently comfortable parting with my date of birth because of the answer to question 1.  I also know that Facebook can’t easily provide me service without verifying that I’m 13 or older. Finally, I’m willing to bet that Facebook probably already has data mining algorithms built to discover my birthday the second my friends post “Happy Birthday” on my timeline.  Similar algorithms apply to gender.  Data mining is so powerful (reference the time Target knew a teen was pregnant before her parents did).

By the time I’ve answered these two questions, I’ve made my decision.  Your decision might not be the same as mine and that is OK.  Both of us will have to bear the consequences of our decision.


One comment on “Tech Tuesday: Privacy, Part 3 – Selecting Social Media Websites

  1. Brian Leslie Coatney says:

    Scary about Target

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