Sunday, March 29, 2009

Facebook and privacy

The other day, I left a comment on Kay's post (They Can Do Without My Face) about her concerns over privacy issues on Facebook. Apart from the pros and cons of FB as a social networking site or whether you think it's a waste of time, Kay is not alone in her concerns. As indicated in the video link on her blog, Facebook (and I imagine many similar sites) can pass on the information you disclose to third parties.

While this is a legitimate concern, particularly if you're worried about copyright and use of your pictures, I'm not sure I buy the whole CIA/internet/control/conspiracy aspect that the video implies - and I can be pretty paranoid. Other than a name and verifiable email address, the amount and extent of other information you provide on your profile is up to you. My point being that you control what goes into your account and just how private or not private you keep that profile information.

It helps to remember that Facebook is in the money-making business. They sell ads and information for profit. As one of my sons pointed out, they are a giant demographics mine. They want statistics: your age, where you're from, your political and religious affiliations, your likes and dislikes. They really aren't interested if you post a couple of lines about visiting Aunt Millie on Saturday. They'd much rather you take all those quizzes and polls that tell the third-party stat gurus about your favourite books, movies, music, foods, etc. – in order to sell and target ads.

So, for the most part, I don't care if they know my age, or that my hometown is Vancouver, or that I might be happy living in London. I may get targeted ads pertaining to Vancouver real estate on my sidebar or travel ads about London, but it's not like an invisible hand is going to reach through the monitor and snatch me off to London (although it might be kind of fun).

It also helps to exercise some common sense about what you post and who has access to your postings. If you're silly enough to post semi-nude drunken pictures of yourself from cousin Sal's wedding, and you happen to be a supervisor at a conservative, high-profile company, and somebody shows the picture to your boss, who then passes it onto the president of the company, who decides that you're not the type of person they want to represent the company; then there's no one to blame except yourself.

And just as it's not necessary to provide all the minute details of your life in your profile, neither is it necessary to befriend everyone who asks. Yet many people do. I've never understood how people can end up with several hundreds or thousands of so-called "friends" on FB. According to the same son, some people enter their entire email address book; then the address books of their friends. So not only do they have their own friends listed, but friends of friends and friends of friends of friends. Personally, I can't understand why anyone would want people on their friend list that they don't know (except maybe as some sort of popularity index). It seems pretty stupid, but what do I know?

It seems to me that individuals need to take more responsibility for protecting their own information. Facebook has a function that gives a fair bit of control over who can see your stuff. It's explained in their Privacy Policy (that even warns people not to share addresses and phone numbers) and can be accessed via user Privacy Settings. Apparently, not everyone is aware of it, or if they are, don't bother to use it. Privacy settings range from the default that allows virtually everyone on FB to see your profile to the most private setting that allows "only friends" to see your profile and what you post. This is why it pays to be aware of who your friends are (see above regarding accepting hundreds of people you don't know!).

If you use the internet at all (online banking, buying things online, joining forums, chatting), much of our personal information is already out there in cyberspace. Unless you're a complete luddite and refuse to use the internet to communicate or conduct any kind of business, it's an unavoidable reality for most of us.

Facebook is just another tool in the internet arsenal. Whether you use it or not shouldn't be dictated solely by concerns for privacy. Just exercise some common sense.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

More ways to procrastinate

I really have a lot of things to do, but . . .

Joy took this Blogthings quiz at Babble On and since she asked, of course I had to try it.

You Are the Philosopher

You love thinking things over and developing theories. Learning is very important to you, and you pursue knowledge relentlessly.

You love to talk about the things you know, often in more detail than people would like to hear.And you know a lot! You're always taking on new subjects, interests, and hobbies.

You are at your best when you are left alone to ponder your newest ideas and experiments.You tend to withdraw from environments that are loud, contentious, or passionate.

and this one:

You Belong in London

A little old fashioned, and a little modern. A little traditional, and a little bit punk rock. A unique soul like you needs a city that offers everything.No wonder you and London will get along so well.

and this one:

You Are Mind

If you dream it, then you can do it. You are very mentally sharp and strong. You enjoy challenging yourself both at work and with studies. You love mastering difficult tasks.

You thrive in new environments, even stressful ones. You are able to study everything objectively. You have a upbeat attitude, and won't be deterred easily. You are open minded and optimistic about the future.

Blogthings, like memes, are a procrastinator's dream.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Taking my own advice

While on my tedious (self-imposed) job of re-publishing and re-reading my old posts, I came across this one (Don't Go Away) I wrote just over two years ago. It's too bad I didn't read it before my little hissy-fit of deleting.

It actually contains some decent advice and also my friend, Joy, in the comments.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Did I just say that out loud?

As long as I can remember, I’ve had an active inner voice. By that, I mean there is rarely a time in the day that I’m not thinking about something -- debating with myself (I really should take that class/no, not enough time), making mental lists (go to the bank, drop off library books, pick up some milk, . . .), making plans (when should we go to Hawaii?), commenting on the passing parade (what IS she wearing?), pondering both the big and little pictures of life (what am I doing here/it’s a beautiful day), and allowing a few curses to enter staccato-like into my musings (mostly shit, but occasionally the F-word).

Even when I’m relaxed and not doing anything, there is commentary going on inside my head. The only time it’s quiet is if and when I try relaxation and meditation. Even then, it’s more like a litany of omm (relax), omm (relax neck), ommm (relax arms), ommmm (neck is still tense), ommm (arms are tense again), ommm (relax arms), ommmm, ommm (how long have been doing this), ommmm. Clearly, I have not mastered the technique.

I wonder. Do others have the same trouble?

The older I get, the more these inner musings end up spoken aloud. Not just the occasional word, but entire sentences - paragraphs, even. More so if I’m watching a hockey game, network news, or a dumb TV show. For example, “Give me a break, how can anyone be that stupid? Everyone knows she's had work done!” or "Did we need another research study to tell us what we've known for years. Common sense, people!" I'm sort of like the person you might see at a movie who talks back to the screen. Other times, I'll say things out loud just to clarify my thinking, as if the proof to my logic is in the hearing of it in concrete words.

Sometimes, my husband or one of my sons will ask, “Who are you talking to?” or De Niro-like, “Are you talking to me?”, noticing, I suppose, that there isn’t any animate object within my immediate vicinity. I usually reply chirpily that I’m just talking to myself. The rationale being that there’s nothing wrong with talking to yourself as long as you don’t answer – or so I’ve been told.

For the most part, I think it’s normal – except for the wee part of me that thinks, perhaps, just perhaps, I’m going a bit dotty.

I have visions of a white-haired octogenarian in a house full of cats, dusty plants on every windowsill, every available flat surface piled to overflowing with books, magazines and unopened junk mail, shuffling around and muttering to herself; "must remember to feed Daisy, don’t forget to phone Jay, where is that telephone bill?, better set the timer for the Canucks game, . . . ."

The last few days, I’ve been trying to keep my mouth zipped when no one else is around -- just to see if I can do it. It’s been harder than I expected. More than a few times, I’ve had to cup my hands over my mouth to stop words from spewing forth when there was no one to hear them except me and the dust bunnies.

Maybe dotty isn’t the right word for this. I like eccentric better. Eccentric conjures visions of a creative soul -- hoopy earrings and flowing, caftan robes in purples and reds (or is that a fortune-teller?). Well, the creative soul part is good.

Now, if only I can be assured that no one will call the mental health authorities to have me taken away, I’ll feel free to mutter and mumble away in my eccentricity.