Facebook, Google, and the Privacy Issue

February 4, 2012

by Jeanine Vecchiarelli                 return to JayVee Media Link LLC

Between the rollout of Facebook’s new Timeline and the announcement of Google’s new privacy policy, most of the online community is sounding big alarm bells.  What’s the need for storing every detail of our internet lives, and what will they do with it all?

While I tend not to be alarmist by nature, I must admit the whole idea spooks me a little, too.  I plan to resist Timeline until I no longer have a choice, simply because I don’t care for it. But the idea that every single post I have ever offered up will be resurrected, and I will have a mere seven days to sift through years of activity, is daunting.  Why on Earth would the Facebook gods save all that stuff??  The same goes for Google.  I’m much more creeped out than happy that my searches are going to be custom tailored to my tastes as gleaned from past searches and reams of other personal data about me they have been collecting.  Too many ramifications above and beyond social media practicalities stand out in my mind.

The only thing to fear is…

A few years ago I attended a seminar on internet safety for adolescents and their parents.  We were scared silly as we watched the officers of the Sheriff Department’s Internet Crimes Division demonstrate how easily a would be predator could locate a child, narrowing down location to near pinpoint accuracy simply by asking three completely mundane, innocuous questions. Queries like “What time is it (narrowing down time zone),” “What’s the weather supposed to be tomorrow (approximate region within time zone),” and “What’s the name of your school’s soccer team (self explanatory, once location is determined)?”  These days, merely knowing an approximate location is all that’s required, given the wonders of services like Google Places, Foursquare, and others that in a regular line of reasoning could be considered a boon to us all.  Top that off with the fact that we all know how easily some of this world’s “shady” computer tech wizards can hack into systems; can breaking into these servers make tracking victims even easier?

The same goes for those malevolent perpetrators of internet scams.  How much easier might it become for them to ply their evil trade, what with all of our most sensitive data pretty much there for the taking by those unscrupulous beings?

Lastly, when you think of burgeoning governments that overstep their bounds and intrude into every aspect of citizens’ private lives, wresting control over them and ultimately stripping them of their God given rights, one has to wonder what potential lays in all of our minutest life details resting in the hands of officials who have strong bonds with those who occupy the highest ranks of rogue governments the world over. I’d be surprised if this was NOT among the fears propelling the people who repel the notion that all their personal life details being cached is a good thing.

Fears are not assuaged when Google says, “If you don’t like it, you can opt out of using our services.”  Really?  Is there a service anywhere on the worldwide web that is NOT connected to Google to one degree or another?  Even if you DO manage to find something, what is the guarantee that the Google honchos really did purge your personal data upon your departure from their network?

What Can We Do?

Bottom line to me: these privacy issues are here. They are inevitable. The only thing we can do is stay extra vigilant. Watch what you put out there going forward, and if possible try to keep track of what details in your past might crop up to haunt you.  It’s not a comfortable feeling when you have no idea how much of your private lives the world is privy to.  Do your best to avoid feeding the maw that would gobble up every detail, only to possibly regurgitate it all where you would rather it not happen.

How do you feel about this whole privacy issue? Is it a concern to you? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below!


When Google Talks…

…everyone listens.  Seriously!  In terms of search rankings, as well as all the other wonderful free tools that are available to us just for having an account, when the Google honchos make a move, we all sit up and take notice.  So it’s no surprise that the recent full scale roll out of Google’s new kid on the block, social platform Google+, has captured everyone’s attention.

Many people are still debating the utility and viability of the Google+ platform.  I will be the first to admit that I still have much to learn about it.  But aside from the obvious search rankings benefits that MUST come when one joins a social platform developed by the premier search engine in the world, Google+ does appear to offer some features that are beneficial enough to earn a spot in the “Here to Stay” category for social media enthusiasts.  Many of these features compare with those on Facebook; indeed, some are considered more favorable.  Here are a few of the “pluses” I’ve experienced with Google+:

  • The interaction is easy, as it is on Facebook.  But the type of people I see and the manner in which they converse remind me more of those who populate LinkedIn.  I would say conversing and networking on Google+ is like a cross between those two platforms. That’s a good compromise for me; when my time is short, I often find myself neglecting one or the other of those sites. Google+ seems to offer the best of both.
  • The concept of circles mirrors Facebook’s “group” idea for friends. But whereas not everyone on Facebook uses groups, you must use circles to add friends on Google+. That is a good thing, because it allows you the option to be very specific regarding with whom you want to share certain posts. As an avid user of Facebook’s group feature, I like that circles are naturally integrated into the Google+ process.
  • Probably one of the most useful features offered by Google+ is “Hangout.”  Hangout is a quick, simple way to start or to join a video chat with others in your circles.  Think of easy, free webinars for clients!  The ability to conduct product demonstrations, live Q&A sessions, or even just interact to show a brand’s human side is an invaluable asset to a business.  As of now, I know of no comparable feature on Facebook.

These are my takes on some of the major capabilities and features of Google+ that I have used or witnessed so far.  While I don’t see the new social site as ultimately vanquishing any of its counterparts, I do see it as a platform with the potential of becoming a major player in the social media world. And of course, its natural standing as “favorite child” in the eyes of the world’s premier search engine doesn’t hurt its prospective longevity, either!

Have you established your Google+ profile yet? Did you set up a business page as well? What are your feelings about the platform? I’d love for you to share your input and insights with us!

–Jeanine Vecchiarelli

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