privacy

You will never get my Facebook password. Never.

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A lot has been going around lately about employers asking job candidates for their Facebook passwords. Apparently they’d really like to be able to nose around a little, see what you’re into, who you’re friends with and such like that. I’ve never met anyone who has had this happen to them, but it doesn’t surprise me to hear that it is happening.

Employers have strange ideas about where their place is in relation to their employees. We’ve seen many cases where employers have attempted to gain access to employees’ LinkedIn profiles, their personal email accounts and more — all under the guise of protecting their business. And in nearly every case that’s been brought to court, judges have sided with employees.

See, there’s a fundamental expectation of privacy one has when using their own email, Twitter, Facebook…whatever. Yes, everything I do on any social network can be made private to the whole world. But that doesn’t mean it has to be. I choose who to share with, and when to share it.

To be honest, I have nothing on Facebook I’d be embarrassed of — and that isn’t the point. I don’t trust Facebook itself, and so I choose to refrain from sharing too much of a personal nature there. I don’t allow others to post on my wall, don’t overshare, and use it primarily for keeping track of old schoolmates. Even so, would I allow an employer to peek into it, even once?

Not a chance.

We don’t bring our personal mail in for our bosses’ perusal, do we? We don’t deliver our cellphone bills to them to look over who we’re calling. And we don’t give them audio recordings of our dinner tables at night. There’s a reason for that: It’s none of their business.

Sure, an employer may be worried about what types of things their employees post on Facebook, and if your job candidate is found to have blasted their ex-job repeatedly and publicly, it could give you pause. But courts have ruled several times that Facebook postings are protected under free-speech provisions — even if they are negative statements about the workplace.

The bottom line: If anyone asks for your password, the answer is no. Always.

Why you should delete your Facebook account (and why I wish I could delete mine)

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It may be piling on, but I can’t be quiet about Facebook anymore. I don’t want to be there and if I could, I’d have been gone ages ago. But if you can get out, I suggest you do so now…before it’s too late.

Let’s break it down:

Back in the beginning, Facebook seemed so…friendly. It was an exclusive club, open only to students. And it felt so much cleaner than the MySpace cesspool. Everyone was eager to join Facebook, and as soon as Zuckerberg opened the doors, millions streamed in. Now Facebook is the biggest, baddest social network on the block…a nation of 350 million unto itself. Problem is, this isn’t just a social network of your friends, and you aren’t just sharing your photos, antics, likes and dislikes and your bathroom habits with your buddies. You’re sharing them with Facebook itself. And Facebook isn’t laughing with you or consoling you; it’s making money off of you.

We knew that, didn’t we? I mean, Facebook is a business. But it really hasn’t been apparent to most of us just how Facebook was going to make money outside apps and ads. In plain English: Zuckerberg is selling access to your “private” information to other companies. There’s no “stupid” or “blind” ad network serving up ads. Facebook is a recon mission; you are the target. It’s a brilliantly executed social engineering plan, wherein Facebook earns your trust, gets you to tell all your dirty secrets, and then sells you out. So…basically the Linda Tripp of social media platforms.

That should scare the crap out of you. Especially given Zuckerberg’s track record with private information.

On Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook profile, he lists his personal interests as “openness, making things that help people connect and share what’s important to them, revolutions, information flow, minimalism.” That all sounds pretty good, right? But how open is Zuckerberg? Let’s just say his profile updates are generally about his company, and he has a total of 40 pictures uploaded on his account. He wants you to share things that he won’t. That says a lot to me.

I count myself lucky that I’ve never been a fan of oversharing. My own Facebook account has precious little on it…a couple of pictures, a few updates, a sparse bio…and that’s how I wanted it from the beginning. I can’t trust a service that wants too much access to my life and, frankly, neither to the hundreds of “friends” one can accumulate on Facebook in a short period of time. But it only takes five minutes browsing lamebook.com to realize there are a bajillion Facebook users who have no problem posting anything and everything they can think of. And as the entire web becomes a Facebook application, even more of your information is going to be stored in the Facebook brain.

Drop the Kool-Aid and run.

Facebook is like the Hotel California: You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave. That’s because the second you upload or post anything, Facebook owns it. And now Facebook’s Open Graph API means Facebook even owns your online habits. I’ve been stunned over the past few weeks to hear folks talk about leaving Facebook, deleting all their embarrassing pictures and disabling their accounts. But disabling and deleting are not the same thing. If you’ve disabled your account, you can still be tagged in photos and notes, you still get update e-mails and if you log back in at any time, it’s like you never left. If you want to delete your account, instructions are here.

Location ain't everything (or, how you're ruining Twitter)

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Edelman Digital’s David Armano recently tweeted out a thought that pretty much sums up Twitter’s future:

It’s unlikely people will abandon networks unless they become so polluted we have no choice.

Twitter can be pretty awesome. I use it every day to catch up on local news, national news and tech news. In the past couple of weeks I’ve found a service I needed desperately, gotten some help with some tricky code, donated some cash to help fund childhood cancer research and even helped answer some InDesign questions. It’s the quickest, easiest way to crowd source, to track zeit geist and just see what people are talking about. It’s a good place to make connections (folks all over are holding tweetups to meet Twitter friends in real life) and it’s an even better place to go when you just want to scream into the void — when you have nobody to talk to but yourself.

Because of all of those things, Twitter is addictive. And when something’s as addictive as Twitter, Armano is right: Users are unlikely to walk away.  But Armano would be more accurate if he said “People will abandon the network when it becomes so polluted we have no choice.”

Enter foursquare, Gowalla, and the “check-in” phenomenon.

You could already argue that Twitter is a cesspool. Besides the bots, spammers, automated feeds and the like, there are too many people who still fill feeds with what they’re eating for dinner, what physical activity they’re partaking in or where they’re doing their laundry. Do. Not. Want. If this is you, you will be unfollowed. Let’s add to that crowd the number of PR, SM and SEO types who talk incessantly about Twitter, as if anyone with 1,000 followers or more is suddenly qualified a social media expert. And while we’re at it, let’s add the fake celebrity tweeps. I have no problem with celebrities on Twitter; I hate spokespeople for celebrities on Twitter.

If you add all that up, Twitter is already headed to that deep, dark place MySpace and Facebook entered a few years ago — that pit of despair filled with spammers, porn and slimeballs peddling junk.

But you can add to that mix the location-based check-in games, which MySpace never had.

Frankly, I don’t care where you’re having dinner. I don’t care that you’re at the airport. I don’t care that you’re at the grocery store. I will not be meeting you there, and no part of me is grateful for the knowledge of your location. I don’t care that you’re the mayor of Starbucks on Main Avenue and I don’t care who you ousted to get that title.

I skim Twitter for thoughts, recommendations, ideas. I’m looking for things that are actionable. The most annoying thing ever is “I’m at Taste of Philly” and a link…that takes me to a foursquare page. Here’s what I like: “Taste of Philadelphia has the best cheesesteaks in Syracuse!” Maybe link me to a photo of the sandwich you’re about to devour. Next time I’m out to lunch I might give the place a try, and I’ll credit you with the recommendation.

The point is there’s nothing inherently interesting about what a person is doing or where they are. The interesting part is what they’re thinking…how they view the particular place or activity. Think of it this way: Do you call your mom, best friend, significant other every time you walk into a building? Of course not. Don’t do that to your Twitter followers either. It’s lame, and it pollutes my stream. I know, I know: “If you don’t like it, don’t follow me.”

Okay. You’re unfollowed.

This guy threatened to kill me.

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I was outside my office Friday, testing out a video camera, the last time my life was threatened.

As I swept the lens across the streetscape, a shirtless “gentleman” rode his bicycle through my field of vision. I didn’t even notice him. He asked if I was pointing a camera at him. I turned off the camera. What followed was a string of expletives aimed at me, including this gem:

“If my picture shows up on the Internet, I will hunt you down and I will kill you.”

Awesome.

So, here’s the offending video:

I don’t put this up because I want to be hunted down or, indeed, killed. I do, however, want to clear up a few misconceptions this gentleman, and many others as well, have about privacy. I’ll go through his argument point by point. I will leave out the curse words.

1. “It is illegal to point a camera at someone without their permission.”

Wrong. I can legally point a camera at whomever I’d like. Furthermore, most of us are caught on camera several times a day, at stores, street corners, gas stations and ATMs. Consent is not necessary.

2. “This is an invasion of my privacy.”

Wrong again. There is no reasonable expectation of privacy on a public street. That’s why it’s called public. If I want to, I can take your picture and run it anywhere I’d like — on the front page of a newspaper or magazine, on my website. I can’t use it in ads or commercials, but as many newspapers do, I can sell prints of your image. The copyright holder — the guy with all the rights — is me.

Want to know something that will bug you even more? It’s entirely legal for me to take pictures of you in your house! If I can see you from the street, I can take your picture. I’m not allowed on your property, but if you happen to be washing your unmentionables in front of your livingroom picture window, you’re fair game.

3. “I’ll call the cops and have your camera confiscated.”

Wrong. There is a clause in our Constitution that protects against illegal search and seizure. My property cannot be taken from me without either a warrant or “probable cause.” If the police have no reason to believe I’ve broken the law, they cannot detain me, search me or take my property without my consent.

4. “We’ll see what my attorney has to say about this.”

No we won’t. Perhaps you will hear what he has to say, but I believe you’ll be sorely disappointed. And I doubt you’ll want to fill me in when your lawyer tells you to get out of his office.

If I seem a little bent about this, I apologize. I don’t mean to sound rude. It was, however, more than a little upsetting to be treated that way. I explained to him that I wasn’t using the footage for anything, that I was only testing the camera, and that I planned to throw the footage away. I even explained that I didn’t actually intend to film him — he rode through my shot. None of those things mattered, though.

So, I have thrown out the rest of the footage. I am, however, preserving the bit above for posterity.

Way to go, guy. Hope it was worth it.

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