Men More Reckless with Personal Information Online

February 22, 2012

There is still widespread naiveté about the value of personal information and the way data is aggregated according to a new survey by Usamp.

Men and women are quite willing to share personal information about relationships, education, employment, brand preferences and political and religious affiliations.

But when it comes to information like email or physical address, phone numbers, or their location, women put a higher premium on physical safety and are markedly more guarded than their male counterparts.

What users have to gain a better understanding of is the very clear risks all of this information sharing represents, and how, with the information women were willing to share, the rest of their information is fairly easily exposed.

Why all that information matters

When looking at the types of information both men and women were fairly willing to share, it is the unintended use of that information that place you at risk.

For example, it was through hard fought battles in the 20th century that we gained a number of civil rights designed to protect every citizen from discrimination based on gender, religion, race, color, national origin, age, marital or family status, physical or mental disability, sexual orientation, political affiliation, financial status, and more.

These prejudices remain, and by sharing this information freely online users enable the very types of discrimination that civil rights were established to prohibit. And users do it in a way that never places an employer or company at legal risk. A candidate will never know why they weren’t considered, they won’t even make it to the interview.

To understand how this works, Microsoft conducted research in January 2010, to expand the understanding around role of online information and reputation.

One aspect of the research looked specifically at how recruiters and HR professionals use online information in their candidate screening process.

As you can see in this table, would-be employers can now make decisions based on a number of factors long before ever inviting a candidate in for an interview process where some system of oversight could possibly identify discriminatory practices against selected candidates.

With this type of undetectable prescreening, employers can make decisions based on how people look in their photos – weight, age, skin color, health, prettiness factor, style, tattoos, and economic indicators. They can look at comments made by the candidate, friends or family members that they would never have had the right to access pre-internet. They can look at groups and organizations a person is associated with – and potentially make decisions based on political affiliations, faith, sexual preferences, even medical factors – if this information is indicated through the groups and organizations to which the candidate belongs.

Learn more about the erosion of civil rights in my blog Civil Rights Get Trampled in Internet Background Checks.

The damage doesn’t end there

It is not just would be employers or college application review boards who can and do use this information.  If 5 years ago someone posted a photo of you on a drinking binge, will it impact whether an auto insurance company accepts you, or quotes you a higher rate?  Will it impact your medical insurance rate? How about your ability to get a car, school, or home loan? The answer is likely to be YES.

A reluctance to share address, email, phone numbers and other ‘locatable’ information doesn’t matter if you’re willing to share your name, employer etc.

The study found that among the types of personal information shared, men and women are most likely to be happy to share their names (86% and 88%, respectively) and email addresses (55.2% and 42.4%, respectively). Yet unless you live off the grid, your name alone is probably enough to get your address and phone number – and sometimes your email address. It’s enough to discover if you own or rent, if you vote, have a criminal record, etc. Compounding your risks, the facial recognition tools now in Facebook and Google+, mean that even your face in a photo may be enough to collect all this information.

Does it mean you hop off the internet and hide? No. But it does mean that before sharing any information you should ask yourself who could see it? What could they do with it? Will it damage you, your child, or someone else in the future? If your information is already out there, you may want to work with websites to have any sensitive information removed.



New Online Safety Lesson: Using Twitter Wisely

February 3, 2012

The 10th installment in the lesson series I’m writing on behalf of iKeepSafe, focuses on teens and Twitter use.

Teens are increasingly turning to Twitter as an alternative or addition to other social media platforms. Like any technology, it has its own language, culture… and risks. How are teens using Twitter and how can they minimize privacy concerns? While you can make your Twitter account “private,” or even use a pseudonym, others may still be watching-including peers, school officials, parents, and even Homeland Security.

As we learn to integrate new technologies into our everyday lives, students and professionals alike grapple with the thorny questions of the boundaries surrounding freedom of speech, appropriate speech, and content censoring. Read on for a primer on Twitter-speak, and find out who’s Twittering… and who’s reading.

To see and use this lesson, the companion presentation, professional development materials, and parent tips click here: Using Twitter Wisely 


What Does Your Online Image Project About You? Infographic, Video, and Research from Microsoft

January 30, 2012

Consumers underestimate how much their online activities contribute to online profiles and influence online reputations according to new data from Microsoft.

For example, “social networking activities are ranked as only the 4th highest contributor to online profiles.  Yet, photos or comments posted on a social network, webpage or blog are the leading contributors to positive AND negative influences to people’s online reputation.”

Microsoft’s material is excellent, and their findings should be a wakeup call to anyone who hasn’t yet paid attention.

This data highlights just how damaging a bad online reputation can be through an infographic, a video infographic, and the more traditional forms of information sharing – a report and a PowerPoint.

As Facebook forces their Timeline feature on all users, and Google shoves ‘Search Plus Your World’ down users throats, Microsoft’s information couldn’t be more timely.


Facebook Dominates Social Networking, Garnering 95% of Consumers Social Networking Time

December 26, 2011

Social networking is all but synonymous with Facebook according to new an analysis of comScore data and charted by web publisher Ben Elowitz of Wetpaint.

The service commands 95% of all social networking time, a remarkable feat essentially accomplished in just 4 ½ years.

Facebook’s fortunes took off when the disastrous mismanagement of MySpace, horrific lapses in privacy and safety features (think of the news stories of early 2009 when MySpace had to acknowledge removing 90,000 convicted sex offenders) and tawdry ads placed on user’s pages disgusted their user base and marketers alike.

How much has Facebook learned from MySpace’s foibles?

While Facebook has largely avoided the label of being a haven for sexual predators, they have been slow to provide consumer with customer support or assistance, and they have trampled consumer privacy so many times that last month’s FTC charges against the company for deceiving consumers by failing to keep their privacy policies is but one incident in a long line of penalties and fines Facebook has faced for their practices. Of note is the $9 million dollar fine levied by the Canadian Privacy Commissioner’s office in 2009, the Facebook Buzz debacle, and the current demand by European countries for changes, see Europeans calls on Facebook to adapt data-privacy changes to comply with local laws.

It is tempting to believe that Facebook is an unstoppable juggernaut, but that may change if another, more respectful alternative comes along.


Giving Technology This Season? Use McAfee’s 10 Tips to Keeping Devices Safe

December 21, 2011

Tech items are wish-list toppers again this year, and if you’re among the millions planning on giving devices, don’t forget to include the safety, privacy and security tools and education that are needed to ensure the recipient is protected. This festive tip sheet from McAfee helps identify areas to think about.


Half of U.S. Drivers say Potential distraction issues Discourage Buying New Media Features in Cars

November 16, 2011

Concerns about driving distractions when using media features like navigation and Wi-Fi would deter half of U.S. users from purchasing these features according to a new survey from Altman Vilandrie & Company and uSamp.

In spite of safety concerns, the demand for new technologies in cars is strong, including media features like WiFi. This is especially true among younger drivers aged 18-24 who are twice as likely (40%) to say in-vehicle media capabilities influenced their most recent car purchase compared to older drivers.

The most desirable in car technology features? Voice-controlled navigation, real-time traffic updates, and the opportunity to turn their vehicles into wireless “hotspots” to enable internet access. Respondents were also interested in voice output–hearing emails, text messages, and social networking information.

The study also found that 70% of respondents have privacy concerns over the potential use of their driving data by car manufacturers and wireless carriers, though surprisingly those privacy concerns don’t extend to insurance providers. More than a third of respondents said they hoped to have their insurance rates determined by monitored driving habits.