privacy

Openbook fuels Facebook privacy issues

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Facebook‘s ‘Posts by everyone’ feature has been taken up by a new site, Openbook, and shows how much people are prepared to (over) share. The feeds are full of people stating how they cheated in exams and took drugs. Not exactly a job reference.
One could argue that this isn’t Facebook’s fault, after all users are both responsible for what they post and can manage their own privacy settings. The ‘over-sharers’, as I call them, aren’t just on FB, Twitter and FourSquare have the same types in their own way. Why do people do it? I suspect there are two reasons: firstly, a few people just don’t realise and secondly, the rest are showing off to their mates and the rest of the world. You could argue that the second category deserve everything they get, but I don’t always feel that is the case.
Last week a man in the UK was arrested, had his computer equipment seized and was fined for a Tweet threatening to do serious damage to an airport after his flight had been canceled yet again (volcano rage). His Tweet may have been ill advised, but I can understand someone seeing red and just loosing it. It was pretty obvious that he didn’t actually mean what he said, but in this paranoid society we live in you have to take care.
I believe that social media sites have a far greater responsibility to take care of their members privacy than they do. It goes beyond offering settings options. These options should default to the most secure. Certain posts should be filtered … if Openbook can pick on people admitting to cheat in their exams, how hard would it be to have a message along the lines of ‘do you really want to post this update?’, before they click the button?
However Facebook have a difficult path to tread. If they are to realise value from their site, then they need to offer advertisers more and more options for targeting customers. From that perspective, the ‘post to everyone’ feature is advertising gold. The flip side, however, is that as privacy concerns increase, more users will leave the social networking site.
From a mobile perspective the issue is significant. We have already seen security issues with FourSqaure, and with FB adding location into it’s settings these issues will significantly grow.

Too much information?

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The thing that never ceases to amaze me is how much information people are willing to give out on social media. Top of the list for me is FourSquare, and here’s why:
I asked a number of random people to be my friend. A few (around 10%) accepted. I clicked on the profile of one woman who seemed quite active. In there it gave me her twitter account, email address and mobile phone number (just click to call!!!). The link to her Twitter account gave me where she works and her job title. Even more handy was the map showing her house (and of course, with FourSqaure I know whether she’s in or not). And even know what she had for lunch.
What I find fascinating about all this is that in spite of mobile being the most personal of channels, when it comes to social media many people are happy to offer up personal information by the bucket load. Maybe this world is much safer than I cynically believe, but frankly that is a hell of a lot of information to give out to a random stranger!!!

T-Mobile data sold by employee: what is the real problem?

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Yesterday’s announcement that a T-mobile employee sold data, including phone numbers, names and addresses, raises some important issues for the sector.

The fact that it has been so widely reported shows that privacy is a major issue for people, especially when it comes to their mobile phones. Marketers need to understand the issue of privacy.

The response from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is interesting. The commissioner, Christopher Graham said:
“If public trust and confidence in the proper handling of personal information, whether by government or by others, is to be maintained effective sanctions are essential.” In saying that he was pushing for greater penalties, suggesting that the individual should be jailed.

Fair enough. But there are greater issues than simply the bad behaviour of one individual.
Firstly, where is the corporate responsibility? T-mobile state that the employee was sacked and that systems have been put in place to prevent it happening again. But why did it happen in the first place? And why should the blame go solely on one person? I believe that the operators have a responsibility to protect their data better. That isn’t just my view, you’ll also find that the Data Protection Act also agrees with me!

The fact is that data leakages have been commonplace from the mobile operators for years. I know of one contractor who was working short term for an operator. He could see all of the data and SMS content from the operator’s users. His girlfriend was on the particular network, so for a bit of fun he decided to see if he could see her text messages. He could. And it turned out she was having an affair with someone else!

On a further issue of corporate responsibility for data, who was buying it? Again, the telco’s or service providers who were intending to market to the T-Mobile customers should be carrying out the necessary due diligence to ensure the numbers were ligitimately obtained.

The second issue is that of the ICO, and their response. Christopher Graham was asking for tougher penalties. Looking at the $5m plus fines raised against spammers in Australia, I would agree, however, as I have already said, it should also apply at a corporate level, not simply ‘rogue’ individuals. However, in my experience the problem with the ICO is not simply the penalties, but actually enforcing the regulations in the first place. I blogged about tracking some spammers a few months ago. However, the net result is that it seems the ICO are not sufficiently resourced to trace them in the first place. When they are given information on spammers, they do not seem to be sufficiently resourced to make a prosecution.

So, perhaps the lessons to be learnt from this are:
The operators should do more to prevent data losses in the first place
The ICO should be given more resources to investigate and make prosecutions