We all spend a good part of our lives online, and it has helped us share information, pictures, videos and much more with family, friends and, well, the entire world. It lets us interact with a lot of people in ways never seen before. That is fantastic, but I’d also like you to give a second thought about what you share and how.
Company dependency and free services
Do you have all your mail on Gmail, appointments in Google calendar, pictures on Picasa and videos on YouTube? Do you use Facebook to sign into every service you use and article you comment on, on the web? All your pictures you’ve ever taken on Flickr?
A number of these companies offer these services for free. Free is a relative term, of course, since a majority of them go through your data and recorded behavior to present you with ads and similar information; at the same time, it makes it a much more compelling platform for advertisers with targeted ads. This data could, at least potentially, also be shared with third party companies, so in essence you can never be entirely sure what and how much a company knows about you.
Many people say they are fine with sharing all the data about them, but I’m unsure they realize just how much companies know about them. You can make a conscious decision what to share, all the time, but always be ready that anyone out there can access anything you ever share.
These services are great!
Don’t get me wrong: all these services are great! The companies behind them are businesses, offering services and making money like any company. All I want you to be is a bit cautious, though, with relying to much on just one company, and also giving all your information to that same company. Don’t put all your eggs in the same basket. You choose what to share and where: never let yourself end up in a situation where you’ve created such a dependency on a company that bailing out is quite hard.
Store your information in more than one, unrelated, services and make sure you always have alternatives and back-up plans. Make sure you can cancel an account and have all associated data removed right away.
The web and all its information out there for you to consume is fantastic! But make sure it is on your terms. For instance, why does a Facebook news app need to know my personal information, likes etc? Or rather, of course it wants it and to analyze as much data about you as possible, but don’t agree to that.
And even more, even if you want to use apps like that, don’t post it on your Wall: by that behavior you, more or less, trick other friends into installing the same app, sharing all their information etc, because they just have to read what you, their friend, read. It’s about trust and recommendations, and we all have a responsibility there.
Enjoy the web as much as you can! But please, just think about what you share, and make sure that you, and no one else, is in control of that.