Posts Tagged: privacy

Family, Friends, Apathy: Three Reasons Your Privacy is Eroding

This is a post I started in December of last year, then wandered away from for client work. There are a lot of these abandoned ideas that flounder in my drafts folder over the course of a year, and part of my December ritual is to clean them out if I deem them no longer relevant. I think this one is more relevant now than it was then, though the reason has changed. So, what did I intend to talk about? The way other people’s carelessness impacts you, and the way your own apathy compounds the error.

Since my most recent post was about leaving Facebook and already mentioned the privacy violations and user information abuses inherent in its code, let’s start with that network as our example. On Facebook, it doesn’t matter what your personal settings are for privacy. If you interact with people and brands on Facebook anywhere, in any way, your interaction is visible outside your trusted (or, in some cases, semi-trusted) network. As a user I find this infuriating, as the site design itself encourages invasive behavior and an erosion of the understanding of individual boundaries. Brands, however, love this, obviously. What is fine for you as an individual (e.g. clicking like or commenting on a stranger’s post – shown to you because a vague work acquaintance or maybe your cousin “liked” it, friending someone’s unstable family member – whom you have never met – because you think being connected tangentially on Facebook gives you permission to do so, sharing a post when it’s clearly set to “friends only” and not meant to be shared) is a violation for someone else. We wouldn’t behave that way in person, putting people’s privacy at risk (well, except photographers, but that’s a different rant), but people freely do so online. Stowe Boyd saw this challenge coming years ago when he talked about publicy vs privacy.

Hiring in the age of social media: don’t be creepy

Leslie Poston's dog Faulkner ©Leslie Poston, Not for Reuse

Leslie Poston’s dog Faulkner ©Leslie Poston, Not for Reuse

An interesting question popped up in a social media group I frequent. It’s a common question, worth sharing here:

“How much weight do you give social media in the hiring process? I am finding more and more that as I review a candidate with the needed qualifications, unfortunately their Facebook, Twitter, etc reflects a person that I don’t want representing my business. Sometimes it’s unprofessional language, sometimes it’s negative comments about their current or past employers, sometimes it’s much, much worse. So is it possible to be two entirely different people (real life vs social life) or is their resume just created to land the job?”

My answer was:

“According to the NLRB employers can not request passwords or access to employee accounts, nor can they discriminate based on social media. It falls under the same protections as not being able to ask if they are pregnant, what religion they are, etc. This is a debate that has raged online since long before social media. Looking at personal social media is tricky at best. Looking at blog posts that demonstrate expertise, however, is different. It’s a fine line.

The ethics are clear to me. Even if you are overwhelmed by how many people apply for a job these days, even if you are a nice person, even if you mean no harm, even if you hold yourself at arms length and don’t ask for access, even if it makes your job easier, even if #allthereasons: if you would not be able to easily find out in a job interview or a reference check, it’s not something you should be using to determine hire. If you aren’t finding out what kind of person the applicant is in the interview, ask better [legal] questions. :)”

That this question is still asked so often is partially a testament that our laws have not caught up with our tech, in many cases. It also shows that when they have, people simply like things that are easy.

Prepare For Facebook Changing News Feed, Adding Graph Search

If you are one of the many people out there who hate it each time Facebook makes a change to how you view it, each time it violates your privacy or tweaks your settings – brace yourself. Facebook is about to change things up again in a big way with two new iterations of the way you use their service. In a blatant bid to compete with Twitter, Google+ and Google Search, Facebook is introducing changes to the News Feed and adding something called Facebook Graph Search.

Facebook users are already freaking out about the potential privacy issues both changes will bring, and with Facebook’s past history of being cavalier with our privacy I think a healthy dose of pre-emptive adjustment to your settings is completely warranted before each new thing rolls out. Before I dip into settings and privacy issues, however, let’s take a look at how this will change how you see the people and pages (and ads) on Facebook.

Gizmodo did a great write up of the basic changes in the news feed, so I’ll just do a quick recap here. You can read the complete article on Gizmodo. I noticed that their post seems to view the changes in a largely positive light. Each person (and business) uses Facebook in a different way, however. Personally, I’m not looking forward to the categories being split. I prefer to get my updates in one lump feed. Frankly, I’d have been happy if they’d have just let me set my feed to “Most Recent” consistently and called it a day. However, if you are a a visual person you’ll love the huge emphasis on images and videos in each category. If you go to Facebook for music discovery or memes, or to bombard Facebook with baby and vacation photos and not to talk with friends, for example, that change will appeal to you as well; you’ll now be able to simply look at one of the four categories at a time. For the rest of us, having to switch back and forth will create extra clicks – an intentional way to force people to spend more time on Facebook, which in turn will pave the way for an increase in the number of ads you will see in your News Feed.

The biggest shift for people who hate Google+ is going to be how much they copied Google’s 2012 release of a new Google+ interface. Facebook has definitely taken a page from Google’s design book with the new News Feed.  If you balk at Twitter, the speed of the News Feed they are introducing will feel quite a bit Twitter-esque to you, and may take some getting used to. If you are one of those people who don’t like sites they view in their browser to work (and look) like an app on their phone or tablet, you may struggle with the new unification in appearance and functionality of Facebook’s Mobile Apps and their web interface. Other than getting used to a new way to find your friends and family and learning where things are in the new categories, in the end the new News Feed is simply a user interface (UI) change designed to make Facebook a more visual and ad-friendly experience. In short, the UI is something you can get used to in time like all of their other many changes.

Privacy and the New News Feed

Privacy on Facebook changes so often I check my privacy settings weekly. Sometimes when Facebook flips a UI switch it changes some of your existing settings – that’s just how Facebook works. It has a long-standing cavalier attitude toward it’s users’ best interests. I recommend going into your privacy settings now if you don’t have the new News Feed yet and locking them down, then doing the same for pictures (yes – photo privacy is in a slightly different place). I also recommend reviewing all of the applications, games and third party services that have access to your account and permission to post on your Timeline and locking those down as well. Then I recommend taking time over the next fews days to adjust the granular settings of your friend’s posts as they scroll by in your existing news feed (you do know you can mute what you see from each individual friend, right? You don’t have to see their game notifications, likes or comments – but that control is up to you, not them). I discussed how to do this ina video here in August 2012, and that advice should be current until the new News Feed is rolled out to all. I’ll make a new video on settings for privacy then.

Let’s Talk About Graph Search

From a real-use standpoint, Facebook’s new Graph Search is underwhelming. Facebook is trying to bring some competition to Google Search, but if you are like me, you search for new things on Google Search, and not things that are connected to your social graph. However, the new Graph Search does make things you find on Facebook more comprehensive. More importantly, Facebook has not abandoned their partnership with Bing. This means that if the location, interest, business, place, photo or whatever you are searching for isn’t on Facebook and a shared interest with someone in (or connected to) your network, you’ll still get the Bing suggested search results popping up.

Graph Search is still in a slow-to-roll-out beta stage. Unlike the change to the News Feed, which will happen rapidly (and soon) for everyone, Graph Search may not flip on for you for a while. Even so, you need to prepare (especially if you are a business). If you upload photos, check their privacy. If you are a business, upload more photos and make them larger and more interesting. If you haven’t added location information to your business page – do so. If you are an individual user, make sure you have your location settings turned off on Facebook browser and mobile interfaces if you want that kept private when you post an update.

Facebook will now allow you to find new people outside of your existing network who share an interest in things you search for, in locations you search for, and will deliver photos as results drawn from your network on topics you search for among other things. One example: you can search for people who have their relationship status set to single in your area and find new people to connect with via Graph Search. This is going to have an interesting impact on how much people share, and could serve to quiet some of the more obnoxious noise from people (and businesses) as users notice how far-reaching their social graph is. If your friends haven’t locked their profiles down as much as you have then how they share, like, and tag information pertinent to you matters more now than ever before. Much of the “creeping” that occurs on Facebook occurs through leaks in profiles that are not connected to you. This means educating the less tech-savvy in your circles about privacy settings (see above).

What About Graph Search and Privacy?

Because Graph Search is designed to unearth shared interests and connect you to like-minded people it will, by its very nature, infringe on privacy a bit. How much is yet to be discovered because it isn’t fully available to the entire user base. I recommend viewing the video above, which tells you how to set some of the more granular controls like how you can (or can’t) be tagged, and turning off the settings for “what your friends can see about you on Facebook” as well as turn off being found in search. There are some potential benefits to people who want to build a larger network of like-minded people, but the main benefit of Graph Search lies in what it can do for businesses.

Businesses should begin prepping their pages now to be more interesting and more shareable to ensure they are showing to all potential connections in the networks of the people who “like” your page. If you don’t want to reveal your love of Glee, bad karaoke, troll pages, political rant pages, vats of wine, or any other information that you felt was heretofore more private to a larger network, comb through your “liked” pages and interests and consider adjusting what you have liked and how much can be shared with friends. Keep in mind – to make all of these adjustments now, before you the News Feed and Graph Search is activated for you, will take the better part of an afternoon. Facebook did away with simple universal privacy settings long ago.

Page Ranking

One interesting benefit to businesses about Graph Search for Pages will be their push for better page ranking and more transparent metrics on the ranking of your pages. Double check a few things to improve your rank. First, check your page name and make sure it is not keyword heavy. Next, get a custom Facebook URL. It pains me every time I see a Page that hasn’t bothered to do this simple step. You can do this here. Make sure that all of the sections that allow you to give more information about your Page are filled out. This seems like a no-brainer, but so many businesses don’t bother to fill out their hours of operation, location or even provide a full About section, for example. Take the time – it will help you.

I can’t stress enough to be interesting if you are a business on Facebook. It matters now more than ever to create updates that compel your fans to engage with, and share, what you say. If your Facebook Page is a wall of announcements, heavy-handed sales pitches and general billboarding, the new Graph Search will start to mute how often people see you. It rewards Pages with high user activity and variety of content.

What If You Aren’t Afraid To Play?

If you are one of the early adopter types who just wants to play with all of this yourself, you can request early access to both new features. To request access to the News Feed early you can add your name to this list. If you want early access to Graph Search you can find that waiting list here (Note: that one has a longer wait for many people).

Social Media War Games

The simple fact of Facebook remains: much like War Games, “the only way to win is not to play”, especially if you are a user who wants to maintain a small social footprint behind a curtain of privacy. For many, leaving is not (yet) an option. They are either on Facebook for friends and family they can’t find elsewhere, have a business that needs a Facebook Page to reach new customers, or perhaps work in a field that requires a social presence (the fact that much of life requires a social presence now is worth a post of its own). Revisiting your privacy settings on Facebook (and elsewhere) should become a habit if you plan to stay on the service. In the meantime, explore these two new options and enjoy them – they both have benefits. It’s just a matter of getting used to something new and adjusting to change fluidly.

 

 

How to Take Back Control of Facebook Privacy

At the request of many friends and family members, as well as folks on social networks I see struggling as Timeline on Facebook is rolled out to everyone, I made this quick video tutorial.

In under ten minutes it will help you regain control of your Facebook privacy, tame your news feed and silence noisy updates and ads. In the next video, we’ll cover even more in depth ways to be private on Facebook when not using Facebook at all isn’t an option for you.

HootSuite - Social Media Management

Throwing Stones at Glass Houses, or Privacy vs Publicy

Normally I am all business on this blog, but let’s take a moment to think about a few tech issues on a personal level. I think Google Glass is cool tech – I love cool tech – but if I see someone wearing Google Glass glasses after they come out, I’m infinitely less likely to want to be anywhere near them for any type of interaction. As the glasses get better and harder to detect, I’m likely to learn people have them by experience then avoid them. I’m wondering if I’m the only one?

You see, in spite of my public job, I don’t assume that every moment, thought or deed (my own or others’) needs to be public.  I am not a fan of being photographed or having video taken without being asked first, or having photos put up I don’t get a chance to look at first, and if you have ever tagged me in a non-work related photo – well, you already know how I feel about that. I value privacy and the dwindling ability to choose how much the internet at large gets to see of my (actual) life.  Just because you *can* take a picture of someone in a public place doesn’t mean you *should*.

People ask me why Facebook is my least favorite social network. Setting aside the network’s blatant disregard for a consistent user experience, the manipulation of the user base while on site and the downright Machiavellian terms of service: the total disregard for privacy on the network, and the inconsiderate behavior it encourages in people, really make me cringe. I feel we must do our best to resist a world where we have spy glasses, drone planes, a culture of eavesdropping on communications and an “always on” mentality.

Let’s look at it from the simple perspective of crime, if you don’t like the privacy angle. As a woman, I am cautious to only pre-disclose events I plan to attend if I know my home will have someone in it and that the event will keep me surrounded by people. I don’t connect with many people on sites like Foursquare – I use them to keep me motivated for things like the gym, but never check into my home, and more often than not I keep my check ins private unless I am – you guessed it – surrounded by people and know my home is protected while I’m gone.  I value time with my friends where I can let my hair down a bit and have a little fun, and I eschew anyone who tries to make those vital moments of being out of the public eye public by sticking a camera phone or flip cam in my face.

It’s because that behavior is rude and invasive, true, but  it’s also because it’s not wise. I can’t control the privacy settings of other people – I can only control my own. A large percentage of information bleed online comes from the missed settings and carelessness of other people that you know. You can lock your own privacy settings down tight, but your inebriated friend at the reception might have his set to public, or a relative might not be as tech savvy, and enough unwarranted photos might reveal you or your kids’ favorite hangout, even if you try to keep it private, which could put you and people you know at risk.

I get a lot of flack from photographer friends about my desire to be asked before photographed. They err on the side of “if you’re in a public place, your consent is automatic”. I agree that at times that’s true. I can’t really get annoyed if I’m speaking at a conference and my picture or a video is taken, and I don’t – it’s all about context.  There is a difference between being in a “public place” and “publicy” and a need in this hyperconnected age to be vigilant and respectful about not just your own privacy but the privacy of those you come in contact with.

Mass adoption of new technology always causes a cultural shift. As one example: the dissolution of public transportation and rise of the car brought us the suburbs and contributed to urban decay in addition to making it possible to do cool things like go visit relatives in Ireland or go on vacation quickly and easily (the car and the plane brought us the world, but the trade offs for easy access to the planet have been pretty significant).

I wonder if we are prepared for – or even cognizant of – the cultural shift away from privacy that is in process right now and what it will cost us if not handled delicately and reigned in to allow for private spaces inside and out. Study after study  shows that privacy, the ability to reinvent oneself or move past a prior mistake in life (Think for a moment of Facebook’s recent indication that they will open up to ages 13 and under and what that will mean to their ability to grow from bad decisions, learn and reinvent when it’s time to move into their adult life. Pretty serious impact, isn’t it? ), the chance for quiet solitude and reflection to grow creativity and deepen thought processes, the ability to move safely from one place to another and more are vital to our well being as individuals and as a society.

*Note: the issue of trading our online behavioral and shopping data for access to sites is a whole ‘nother issue/can of worms. Post on that coming soon.

What are your thoughts on privacy vs publicy and this huge cultural shift that is going on under our noses?

The Reports of Facebook’s Death Are Greatly Exaggerated

Please believe me when I say that I fervently wish reports of Facebook’s pending doom like this one were true. I just can’t agree, however. I think it is the wishful thinking of a tech press, sour investors and tech savvy professionals that don’t like the platform, and that it doesn’t take into account some key factors.

The most significant factor this prediction ignores is the human element. I agree that Facebook is evil and manhandles our privacy on a regular basis. I’d love to see people stand up and fight to prevent the significant changes the careless use of Facebook on a regular basis has made to our individual concept of accepted privacy vs publicy and how those changes are (negatively) impacting our society. The chances of that happening are slim to none, however, no matter how hard people like myself advocate for vigilantly guarding your right to privacy.

Completely ignoring the added issues of Facebook’s impact on how we think, our workday and our offline relationships, we can’t ignore one thing Facebook has mastered: it’s users behavior and emotional need to connect. Facebook has inserted itself into our lives in a way that MySpace and Yahoo simply never did. It’s crossed a barrier between generations that neither of those social networks were able to cross by finding a way to coexist across age limits, careers and demograhics. MySpace never really resonated with the parents or the grandparents in the way Facebook does – they got lost in the glare and blare and glitter. Yahoo never really resonated with kids past a certain age the way it resonated with an older demographic. Facebook manages to straddle the line.

The second factor that the article ignores is iteration. Many would choose the over-used term innovation here, but that’s not accurate. There is not a lot in the way of true innovation going on in tech right now. However, the company that can spot trends and iterate fastest across the most demographic touchpoints will win, and for the foreseeable future, like it or not, that company looks like it’s going to be Facebook.  The only way I see Facebook being completely gone by 2020 is if the internet (or the concept of a nextnet, whatever this space becomes over time) is itself gone. As long as we can connect, Facebook has shown a willingness (and budget) to iterate itself into our lives continuously.

Some say marketing will be what kills Facebook over time, but I disagree there also. Facebook has made it quite difficult for the average marketer of the average company to see success on their platform, and that is very intentional. They want to straddle the line of paying the bills and keeping the user enthralled, and you can’t do that as a company if you let marketing run the show (see this piece on GM for one example). Companies that play well in the pool, like Ford, see success, but others struggle, unable to see beyond traditional, limited marketing rhetoric. This ability to force marketing to act on the sidelines and to put the users into the marketing stream via stories is a third thing that will keep Facebook relevant far longer than most expect.

The fourth and final key element to the longevity of Facebook is their New York Yankees style growth plan. If they can make it, they do, and if they can’t make it, they buy it (disclaimer: Red Sox Fan). There is a lot of talent out there toiling away at various startups or under the umbrella of stodgier existing companies that will have plenty of ideas and technologies for sale to keep Facebook strong for years to come. Jut because some pundits think that’s a lazy approach, or some purists think you should create these things for yourself, doesn’t mean that buying talent or tools doesn’t work. So far it seems to be working far better for Facebook than it does for Google, a company who tends to ignore or kill the majority of the cool tech it buys.

How do you come down on this argument? Do think the projections of Facebook’s demise are greatly exaggerated or correct, and why?

 

Businesses and Employees: Boundaries in Social Media

This week I’ve been watching a favorite restaurant do their own social media. Normally I love seeing people at least try these tools on their own, even if they do it wrong, but in this case it is making me cringe. What are they doing wrong, you ask?

1) Forcing their employees to get personal accounts on a variety of social media services such as Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, and more.  This is uncool for a variety of reasons, not the least of which being that social media use is a very personal choice for people, and not the right choice for everyone.

2) Forcing these employees to then a) give the account info to customers for connecting in addition to the company account info, instead of just giving folks access to the company accounts and b) to use their personal accounts to promote the company.  No, no, no. This is all kinds of not ok!

3) Requiring password access to the employee accounts. Employees – do not give your employer access to your personal account this way. Stand your ground. By giving the employer or employer’s representative this kind of access you essentially allow them to impersonate you at will on social networks, if they are especially evil, and to see your private interactions and info if they are somewhat less evil. Even if they have it and never use it, really – how can you think this is ever ok? Defend your space and your right to a personal life separate from your workplace.

Companies, you have no right to require your employees to use social media, much less to use it in their own name then to promote you.  That crosses a line.  It violates boundaries, breaks laws, and in some cases enables cheating on social networks, among other things.

Personal accounts are none of the business of the… business as long as the employee doesn’t defame them, and it should be the employee’s choice to represent the company in that venue and not be required to be used for the company.

Instead, simple employee guidelines should be in place as part of the company employee manual for those who do have personal social accounts how to represent the company should they CHOOSE to do so and how to handle disgruntled ex employees and other issues, and employees should be given posting access to the main company profiles and instructed to post using their initials under the company umbrella instead.

Companies if you’d like help navigating the tricky waters of bringing employees online and having them help man the official company accounts, reach out for it.  But for pete sake don’t invade your employees’ lives just to make a buck.  It’s actually worse than automating social using tools like PAL, and you all know how I (and your customers) feel about soulless automation.

 

 

 

Expectation of Privacy

What expectation of privacy means to the individual can vary wildly. I’m in the middle of yet another Twitter discussion with a photographer about the subject of posting photos publicly. It started because I shared a link to this article about a photographer’s bill of rights card, and commented that they’d forgotten one: in my opinion the photographer should ask permission before slapping those photos of people online, and if even one person says no, even in  a group shot, they must honor that and keep them private.

Your photo can have serious repercussions for people.  So many seem to forget that so often. The abused woman who has finally started her life over in a new city, and finally ventures out of the house, only to have her photo snapped and posted on Facebook for her stalking ex to see and use to find her (especially if the photographer carelessly has geolocation turned on). Should she have stayed home for the rest of her life and never gone to a business networking event because you don’t want to be restricted in your art? The new employee who’s boss has made it clear that even though he is sure he is being responsible, even one photo of them at a party holding a beer can result in termination. So even though they are drinking responsibly, having that one beer then switching to soda like they said they would, they should pay for your art with their job? These examples are just the tip of the iceberg.

Of course, every time I have the discussion about my own definition of expectation of privacy, it causes photographers grief.  Let me be clear – I make no bones about preferring to be left in peace to network or enjoy my friends without wanting my photo taken when I’m at a public event. I’m equally clear about not wanting photos that may be taken anyway posted without my permission. I tell that to photographers at events in the first five seconds of meeting them. Then I go on and do what I came there to do, often surprising the photographer in following days with a take down request if they don’t listen and ask before sharing. I’m not shy about being vocal about what I consider my right to control my own privacy without having to be a hermit. I’m always amazed at the people who hear me do all of this and are surprised you are “allowed” to request folks a) not take your photo b) remove it form view if necessary. Of  course you are! Speak up!

Photographers, rather than continue to go back and forth unproductively on this, is there something we can both do to foster change here? I don’t hate photos or photographers or even having my photo taken, I just resist having it plastered all over the web carelessly. I resist the consequences your photos can have for less savvy people if where you share them isn’t thought through. To me the resistance to the simple request to just ask folks if they want to be online (or be photographed at all) is a bit unnerving. After all, we often say yes. Will we reach common ground?

What is your personal definition of privacy when it comes to photos and photographers?

Thoughts on Facebook’s New Privacy “Options”

(Twitter friends will see an auto notify of this twice)