Newsletter No.10 - Privacy


welcome to this, my tenth newsletter.  

I thought I would focus on privacy issues in this one as with all the fuss about Facebook's privacy settings it is on many people's minds. Privacy is one of those topics that tend to polarise views and I am sure amongst those of you reading this there will be the whole spectrum from cavalier to cautious. 

My own position is that if I don't want someone to find something out about me I don't write it on a computer. Maybe it is having been involved for so long in blogging, where the benefits of being open far outweigh any negative consequences, but I worry more about being ignored than having information stolen!

However, with that context in mind, I thought the following information might be useful to all of you, whatever your position on the risks associated with privacy on the web. 

Facebook privacy settings

The trouble with Facebook is that they keep changing the default settings and have gone from being very closed to very open. On top of that they have made it very difficult to keep across what is going where and what can be shared by whom. This shows a casual attitude to say the least, especially as many Facebook users are relative newcomers to the web and may not have the experience or technical know how to keep across what is going on.

If you are unsure what is going where from your Facebook account, and I certainly was, this useful service will scan your page, work out what is being exposed, and let you adjust the settings appropriately. 

Children and privacy

Obviously parents are concerned about the safety of their children online, not least because of the media making them paranoid about it! Some time ago I was interviewed on the BBC about this issue. I suggested that rather than making parents fearful of the web it would be better to make more of them more confident in knowing how to use it. They would then be better placed to advise their children about what safe is in all contexts - including the web!

If you are interested in finding out more about issues relating to children online, including cyber-bullying, Digizen have some useful content and links to further resources.

Google secure search

For the really concerned amongst you Google have started offering secure search. Google obviously still knows what you are searching for but this stops anyone in between finding out!

General Links

If you are interested in staying across the subject of privacy generally the UK Based Open Rights Group maintain an excellent wiki page on the subject and you can also follow the topic on the Electronic Frontier Foundation's blog. 

Productivity Tip

This may be more related to vanity than privacy but if you haven't done so already it is worthwhile setting up a vanity search on Google. Hopefully everything said about you on the web will be positive but in case not it is better to find out sooner rather than later!  Google have a simple page to let you set up an alert for your name, or any other topic, and be informed by email any time it appears in their index. You can also subscribe to those results in an RSS reader.

Recommended Reading

By an uncanny coincidence I was recently sent a review copy of my friend Antony Mayfield's new book My Web Shadow which deals with the issues of managing your online presence. It is more aimed at making  a positive mark on the web than privacy per se but a lot of the issues and practices are relevant. Antony has worked in PR and online reputation management for many years and knows more than most about how to track and manage the impression you make online. This book is ideal for people relatively new to the web and covers a wide range of situations in which you need to be aware of the consequences of your online actions. He has loads of tips on how to increase your positive online presence and wise words about what to do when things go wrong. Although it is aimed more at web newcomers than folks like me I still got a lot out of the book and picked up a few useful url's on the way.

Thanks again for reading and as ever let me know what you think of this newsletter and do pass it on to friends or people you think might enjoy it.