You don’t have to read many news stories to realize that personal privacy is something that is difficult to maintain but should be cherished and protected.
Let’s start with two of the biggest offenders: Facebook and Google. Facebook has been in the news for selling customer information, and despite the recent testimony of Mark Zuckerberg on Capitol Hill, they still sell your information.
There is no such thing as a free lunch. Andrew Lewis said on MetaFilter, “If you are not paying for it, you are not the customer; you’re the product being sold.” With Facebook that is the case. Your free Facebook account is based upon Facebook selling targeted ads. This is why Facebook wants to know your birthday, employer, schools attended, etc. This is also why Facebook wants you to use Facebook to sign in to sites such as Airbnb.
The best solution is to clear your profile, eliminate your hometown, birthday, employer, favorite teams, etc. All of this info makes it very easy to target you for products and services that may have no value to you and will make you a potential target for affinity frauds.
Another danger on Facebook is posting vacation pictures while still on vacation. This is like advertising that it is a good time for you to be robbed because you are out of town. If you have posted interior photos showing your belongings, you have also told the robbers what you have to steal, such as guns and electronics, which are very popular with crooks.
In one interesting case, neighbors interrupted crooks in the very act of loading furniture into a van. When the neighbors asked what they were doing, the thieves said, “Rob and Kathy wanted the family room painted while they were at Disney World. I guess that since Kevin is headed to LSU in the fall, they figured that it was time to refresh the interior.” Based upon this convincing information the thieves found on the internet, the good neighbors actually helped to load the flat screen TV into the van.
If you feel the need to post vacation pictures, wait until you get home. For particular friends or family, email or Dropbox the photos if you want to send pictures as you travel.
Google is one of the biggest information aggregators in the world. Based upon your Google maps activity, they know where you shop, work, worship, live and vacation. They also have a good idea of your income, taste in music and movies as well as your political leanings.
To reduce this, rotate your searches between Bing, Google and Safari. Turn off my GPS location services on your phone and leave it off unless you are actively using the map. When the pop up window asks about knowing your location, always click on “no.” Scammers use this trove of data to target you for bogus offers. The smaller your public profile, the more likely you are to avoid identity theft and scammers, as well as annoying pop up ads.
Finally, as convenient as it might seem, do not allow Google to save your passwords. This is an open door in the event of a data breach. A better solution is to use a group of pass phrases (longer phrases used as passwords rather than single words) and one complex password for your bank and financial accounts.
Online privacy is important, and only by actively managing your settings can you protect yourself. Remember, the default for the internet companies is always to get all the information they can in order to sell your profile.
Guy Williams is president and chief executive officer of Gulf Coast Bank and Trust Company. Their Kenner branch office is located at 3410 Williams Boulevard. Marcel Gonzalez, vice-president and branch manager can be contacted at 565-3656. Brian Behlar, vice president and commercial lender, can be contacted at 565-3661. Visit Gulf Coast Bank and Trust’s website at www.gulfbank.com.