You Are Being Watched

There’s more Facebook hoopla, wouldn’t you know it? In fact, there’s a really good article here called Didn’t You Know? Facebook Is Forever, if you’re so inclined. If you’re not, let me sum up.

Basically, this author warns against the hazards of Facebook and that our privacy is no longer ours. And really, he has a point. Let’s say Nancy in Accounting posts pictures of you and some co-workers at happy hour at Joe’s Bar & Grill. The next morning, John, another co-worker – who wasn’t invited – says they saw you were at Joe’s last night. Creepy, huh?

But let’s take it one step further. What if John, who wasn’t invited, gets jealous? And what if he starts scouring the internet for everything about you? And let’s just say, hypothetically, that John knows you have a website and a blog. And then John starts reading all your stuff and going through your archives because he’s ticked off he didn’t get invited to happy hour at Joe’s.

And then John sees something on your blog that he thinks is about someone in the same office so he prints it and holds on to it for that perfect moment when he can blackmail you or drag your name through the mud because he has this sick fascination with you and your friends.

I guess John has nothing better to do with his time but look for and cause trouble. (And in that case, Trouble will come back to haunt John.)

Scary.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the last few days. The Internet is not a safe place. I think we all should know this by now. But it’s not just the Internet. Big Brother is everywhere. Most companies track your Internet usage and your email. At any given time, they can pull up what document you’re working on. Some of the more Corporate sneakiness involves putting key loggers on machines to see exactly what you’re typing and to whom.

And those public documents? They’re all on the Internet. You can go to any county appraisal district online and pull up a record by someone’s name. You can find out where they live, how big their house is, how much it’s worth. Then you can use Google Earth to find out exactly where it is and what it looks like.

Don’t believe me? Here’s another example. The ex and I married in Las Vegas several years ago. Our marriage license? It’s on Clark County’s website. Yep. You can look up people. All you need is a name.

And now we have cameras a nearly every major intersection in town, supposedly to stop red light runners.

The Internet? It’s a Stalker Playground if you ask me.

The article goes on to talk about the privacy settings Facebook offers. If you’re on Facebook, you should really take a look at the article and learn more about it. He even posts a link to get to the page to delete your account.

Just this past week, I deleted one of my MySpace pages and my Linked-In profile. I think there needs to be a limit to having an online presence. Sure, it’s good for the books. But the question is, is it good for me?

So, what, you may ask, can we do to safeguard our privacy? Here’s a few tips I came up with and personally use.

Limit your social networking to a minimum. Make sure you have your personal information (address, phone number, email) set to private on those sites so only you can see it. Whether you’re a member of Facebook or MySpace.

If you’ve registered a domain name for your website, make sure you pay the extra few dollars for the privacy (hiding your contact information). That way, people can’t pop into WHOIS and get your personal information.

Leave work at work. As much as we like to make friends at work, sometimes that’s not the best idea. You need a life outside work just as much as your co-workers do. And, in my opinion, crossing over into those personal relationships with people you work with can be dangerous and backfire on you. Even if you think you know them well, sometimes they have their own hidden agenda. I’ve been in that type of situation before and, trust me, it’s not a pretty thing.

As for Facebook and MySpace…I’m still a member. I probably will be for a while. But Nancy from Accounting can look at my profile all day long if she wants to. I’m not hiding and I’m not ashamed of anything on there. Just as I’m not ashamed of anything I write on this blog (or any other ones).

By Michelle

I wish you all could be inside my head. The conversation is sparkling.