And how to overcome your Facebook addiction.
Often I hear people say: “I don’t have much to hide, why would I bother keeping my data safe?”, a lot of companies would agree with you. Data is like gold, 1 MB of (potential) customer data can be worth 1 kilo of gold. But still, you ask: “So, what?”. In this post, I’ll tell you why you should care…
It will start out harmless, let’s look at this example of a fictive company and call it The Diaper Company (DC). DC has a web shop where it wants to sell as many diapers as they can possibly make. They recently opened a new position for a Diaper Data Manager (DDM), the DDM will be responsible for maximizing profits by looking at the data. DC has been collecting data about:
- Production (1000 diapers a week)
- Customers (young parents)
- Costs (15 euro per pack)
The Diaper Data Manager pays services like Google AdWords to display ads only to the targeted customers. Only young parents will know about the existence of DC. You can argue that this approach is helpful to potential customers who don’t have to look for a diaper supplier anymore because DC will find them instead.
But, let’s look at two examples of the near future and say that DC profits when they sell the diapers for 15 euros or more.
Young parent Michelle is looking for diapers for her 1-year-old son, she sees a lot of ads about diapers and they all display a price of around 25 euros. At the same time, Chris is looking for diapers, he has a 4-year-old son. Most kids are potty trained by the age of 3, but Chris’ son is taking a little longer. When Chris looks online he has to look a little harder but he also finds an ad for diapers which shows a price of 20 euros. The ads advertise different prices to different target audiences.
In the example of Michelle, DC knows she will buy diapers, every 1-year-old needs diapers. Even when DC increases the price, Michelle will buy the diapers. In the case of Chris and his 4-year-old, DC is not so sure that he will keep buying diapers since his son is outside of the diaper range. Maybe if DC keeps the price low for Chris, he will keep buying them for a little while longer before potty training his son. When the price is low, Chris won’t have an incentive to stop with the diapers. This example was based on data that can be legally acquired and although it is very blunt, maybe it will open your eyes. If you used to think you don’t have anything to hide, maybe now you start to wonder about what your personal data actually means to others and how it helps YOU if you keep it private.
Be aware of what you share!
Next up is a list of things you should probably not share. This will be common sense, but I want to list it just for completeness. Every time you share something run over this checklist to make sure you don’t send anything you are going to regret later. Make sure your post is free of:
- Your name
- School/job name
- (E-mail) address
- Phone number
- Personal conversations
And don’t post in the heat of the moment!
*Short note on passwords: I use LastPass, it’s a free password manager that stores all of your passwords for you. It works like a charm, when I open a website, LastPass fills in my credentials and logs me in automatically. I don’t have to remember all of my passwords anymore, I only know my LastPass password.
How to keep your data safe
The next important step in online privacy is keeping your data safe. It starts with knowing who owns your data, after that find out what data they have and finally make sure you know exactly what happens to your data in the future. In this post, I’m going to focus on online companies to keep it simple for now, but be aware that companies who mostly operate offline, like supermarkets, also collect vast amounts of data.
Step One: Who owns my data
Let’s look at Facebook because that company is one of the biggest hoarders of data and most people will have an account there.
Step Two: What data do they own
First thing to do is enter the link to your Facebook profile (facebook.com/username) on this site: https://stalkscan.com/
After entering your profile link on stalkscan.com, it shows every thing about you. Click on ‘pictures’ for example and I bet you will be surprised when you scroll down the list, I hope you won’t feel embarrassed though.
Step Three: Gain control of your (future) data
The best way to gain control of your future data is to set your privacy settings correctly. In your privacy settings, you can tell Facebook if you want to share your posts with the world or only with your close friends. If you want to know more about privacy settings (which I highly recommend), then I suggest The Complete Guide to Facebook Privacy Settings. These settings are only applicable to future posts, to regain control of old data you’ll have to delete or untag yourself from posts. This can be a very time-consuming job and you can trust Facebook to keep a copy… But, at least it doesn’t show up anymore.
So, this is how you get your Facebook data in control, now it is your turn to do the same for other social media accounts you probably have. Follow the three steps listed above for all your social media accounts, that way you will be aware of who (or which company) has your data and how to regain control of it.
Beat that addiction
I’ll show you another neat trick, following all the way through these steps will take some time but it will be worth it in the end. So, what you want to do is the following:
- Click the downward arrow in the top right corner of a post
- Click ‘Hide all from X’ or ‘Unfollow X’
Repeat this for everybody in your timeline and your are done! This way you are still friends with everybody and you can still see their posts on their walls, but they just don’t appear in your timeline anymore. That way whenever you open Facebook it will be empty and boring, you will likely leave very soon. This is how I overcame my addiction.
It’s up to you to decide whether your data is important to you or not. I am still debating for my self how far I am willing to go when it comes to keeping my data private. When I first understood the value of my data I started deleting everything I had ever posted to Facebook, including all my pictures and posts, I changed my name and I enabled all privacy settings. My current settings are a little less paranoid, now at least my friends can find my profile and I added one simple picture. I even posted a few things, mostly blog updates though, so nothing very interesting. Educate yourself on privacy, be aware of the risks and decide how paranoid you want to be. For more detailed info check out this TED playlist, it’s a playlist consisting of 8 talks about what your data reveals about you.