This is a topic many of us can relate to, especially when it comes to social mediums like Facebook, and to a lesser extent, various “chat rooms” we can find via the internet. It’s also one of particular interest to me, given the vast number of people I interact with on a day-to-day basis on my own Facebook pages. Everyone knows there are people “out there” we can’t trust; predators, scam artists, the list goes on and on. And when you consider that nearly 1/10th of the ENTIRE world’s population, or roughly 750,000,000 MILLION people, have accounts on the world’s most popular site called “Facebook”, the risk is even greater that YOU or ME will encounter some shady characters at one point or another.
One thing that I find curious is the use of one’s “privacy settings.” Many people believe they can protect themselves from harm by limiting access to their personal information. Privacy is a HUGE issue in our world these days, including bank accounts, medical information, employee records, driving records, tax data, cell phones, schools, email accounts, and of course, our beloved Facebook. Why do I say curious? Easy. There’s NO such thing as keeping our information private. In spite of our best efforts, infiltration and invasion of our privacy is simply inevitable. That’s a fact. For example, every time you send or receive an email, that information is stored in a server, OTHER than your own, somewhere. So when you “delete” emails and “empty” your trash bin, those emails go SOMEWHERE. It’s not like they just magically disappear into thin air.
When I attended a renowned Paralegal program in San Diego in the spring of 2010, one of the required classes was computers. The instructor was a lady who has worked in the legal field for a number of years and is considered one of the experts in her field. The first day of class, she instructed that ALL of our homework was to be compiled and sent to her via email, including “attachments” of various forms of word and excel documents. Later in the program, shortly before it ended, she shared with us one day this little tidbit of information. She rattled off TEN different things she knew about EACH of us when we had sent our information. Because of her expertise, she knew WHERE we were when we sent it, how many times we had edited it BEFORE we sent it, including the time of day, right down to the second. I wouldn’t be surprised if she knew what kind of paper I had completed my work on, even though it was electronic!
I’m not saying these things to scare you nor am I suggesting that you throw your hands up in the air and open your life up to “everyone”, i.e. Facebook, just because you think it’s pointless to protect your identity or personal information. Of course, there’s a number of ways you can do so and many of them are quite effective. However, in the end, short of hauling yourself and everything you own to a deserted island in the South Pacific, chances are pretty good somebody somewhere knows things about you that are fairly revealing. And that’s putting it mildly. And that deserted island you may be thinking of? I’d venture to guess even THERE you could find a faint Wi-Fi signal! And if YOU can, who ELSE can?
Here’s another example. Several years ago in my little hometown of Tribune, KS., I walked into the local Farm Service Agency office to certify my acreage reports in order to maintain qualifications for government farm subsidies. In prior years, this was all done by hand. Not so that year. This was in the early 2000’s. By then, it was all computerized using Google Maps. You know the one, the kind where you can get down to “street view.” When I certified acreage for a particular piece of land situated on the outskirts of town, I noticed I could “see” a view of the town on the computer. Zooming in, I then found my home, including a DISTINCT image of a 10’ x 14’ shed in my BACKYARD. From space. I was stunned. And then it hit me. If YOU or I can walk into any public library in the world, type in Google Maps, and an address, and see our own homes, including personal possessions, what ELSE can “they” or somebody else see we’re not even AWARE of? Frightening, isn’t it?
But that’s not the point of this latest chapter. My POINT is, regardless of what steps we take to protect our privacy, in whatever mode of communication we can think of, there’s NO fool-proof way to do so. And THAT’S why, a long time ago, I took the DELIBERATE step, and what some may think as foolish, as disclosing nearly ALL of my personal information on Facebook, as well as revealed personal and sometimes graphic detail of my life HERE in this blog. Why? Because I threw my hands up in surrender? Absolutely not. It’s for credibility. If I’m who I SAY I am, someone who espouses and proclaims “live out loud” with truth, honesty, and sincerity, then WHY NOT lay all my cards on the table? It's a LOT less stressful than going around constantly wondering who's seeing what about me, especially when I've already opened the front AND the back doors for them and said, "Hey, come on in!"
So, the next time you log in to your Facebook account, take a look around. You’ll find that nearly everyone attempts to protect themselves in their privacy settings. Believe me, I’ve researched it myself and I’d venture to say 90% or more do so. Put me in the 10% or less column. The one who shows no fear of who and what I am. And then decide for yourself. Who’s real and who’s not? I’m sure there’s going to be some disagreements on THIS chapter!