In November of 2012, the United States Senate Judiciary Committee approved internet privacy legislation, requiring law enforcement agents to obtain a warrant before they began snooping through email messages or other forms of electronic communication. Its a move that private citizens and public businesses might have greeted with applause, as they might believe that laws like this could protect them from privacy breeches and unfortunate internet-based reputation attacks. Unfortunately, evidence suggests that many privacy problems arent due to law enforcement action at all, and dealing with problems like this might be a more complicated endeavor.
What some consumers might consider a breech of privacy, a company might consider a completely acceptable way of doing business. For example, when users accept Facebook apps, they also accept the terms of those apps, and sometimes these terms allow the developers to share the consumers buying history with a third party. Similarly, some sites allow users to click on a button to share content via Facebook, Twitter or email. Clicking these buttons could also install a little electronic tracker on the users computer, allowing merchandizers to follow that users movements. If people use their computers to make unsavory purchases, or if people use their surf time to look at sites they might not wish to discuss with friends, that information could be exposed in a public way, as third parties are gathering that data.
Privacy attacks arent always so sneaky and covert. Sometimes, internet privacy can be violated through coding errors. For example, a group of cardiologists inadvertently shared a very private calendar with the world, broadcasting surgery and appointment dates. Signing up for a private service online could mean a public embarrassment, should something go wrong, and only diligent monitoring could help a consumer to spot the problem.
Mistakes and subterfuge arent the only way privacy can be violated. There are times when information that was meant to be private jumps from a secure platform to another venue. Mark Zuckerbergs sister found this out the hard way in December of 2012, when a private photograph she posted on Facebook was copied, posted on Twitter and shared with the world. Security breeches like this are harder to control, as each online friend has the capacity to do major damage. If one loose-lipped friend decides to jump from private to public, a significant amount of information could migrate, and it could be hard to rein in.
At InternetReputation.com, we encourage our clients to take commonsense approaches to protecting their privacy, and we push our clients to make their social media profiles both private and benign. When information is boring, its less likely to be shared. And when robust passwords are involved, the data is harder to share publically. We also work with our clients to monitor their reputations on an ongoing basis, so we can spot any problems and amend them, long before theyre allowed to spiral out of control. We know that internet privacy is an oxymoron, but we do what we can to ensure that our clients dont face damage when they head online and start to share. Want to find out more? Contact us.