The era of the social web has given us unprecedented access. We can see more about each other’s lives, know more about each other’s daily routines and find each other easier now than ever before. We have access to what would have been millions of dollars in software applications and platforms now, too. But they, in turn, have access to us. Our lives, not just our computer programs, have become open source.

Rough waters. Image by NZG on Shutterstock.comAnd we plod along, going with the flow and accepting the fact that the creepy guy from junior high is now commenting on our Facebook pictures. We’ve mostly grown wise to not sharing our credit card or social security numbers with sites we don’t know and trust, but we’ll announce on Twitter we’re leaving town for a two-week vacation without hesitation, inviting anyone with sinister motives to come over and enjoy our stereo systems all the way to their house.

While speaking to a leadership group of the Association of Educators of Communications and Technology (AECT) last week, a cell phone went off in the audience. No one seemed to notice. Not even me. Later in the question-answer period, an audience member pointed out that we’re becoming desensitized to the technology and what it brings. Five years ago, every head would have turned to look at the person with the cell phone. Ten years ago, they’d have been escorted from the room. Today? Shrug.

As I pointed out on Monday, Facebook is hoping we all become less sensitive … more desensitized … to sharing our information across technology and networks. But should we? An article in my local newspaper Sunday pointed out the big brother-type data gathering companies have been mining out of our web browsing and usage for years. For the most part, we’re unaware sites like Facebook, Yahoo and even Google are tracking our behaviors, sites visited and more every time we log in. Should we be concerned?

I’m of the mindset that these companies would be in a world of hurt if they used that information in a sinister fashion. But is serving up more relevant advertisements to you sinister? It’s not for me, but it may be for some. Can we opt out? I’m sure we can, but how do we even know who is collecting what and where to say, “No thanks!”

The social web will require more trust, both for and from us. There will always be individuals out there misusing and even violating that trust. So how do we allow our newfound connectivity to prosper without the, “Oh shit!” moments many of us are sure to have in years to come?

The only thoughts I have are to take a few minutes the next time you log into any website that requires it, including your email, and look at the account settings with particular regard for security settings. (Selfishly, I want you to back your data up, too. See Backupify.com, a company I’m involved with that backs up your Web 2.0 data.) Read the fine print, check the right boxes and set things up to share what you’re comfortable sharing. Think of this for your company or brand as well. While you have to be careful – participating fully in these networks often requires a minimal level of openness – you need to make sure you aren’t lulled into a false sense of security.

Because when we open the flood gates, the waters will rise. Are you ready to swim?

IMAGE: By NDZ on Shutterstock.com. Used with permission.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • christinesierra

    Good points. And similar to a conversation I had recently with a group of Moms – children/tweens/teens/young adults are more and more connected, but barely (if ever) think of the trust aspect. The “how” some ad is served, or “how” some targeted message is flashed before their screen isn't even remotely on their radar. So if they can get onto a site, or access to an application faster by clicking “yes, yes, yes” across the board, they will. Interesting topic.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Agreed. It's certainly something we should all be aware of, especially
      us with children. Thanks Christine.

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  • http://twitter.com/herzy69 Jeff Herz

    agree with @christinelexa, good points, but the concern is most people, outside the industry don't know enough to read (or understand) the fine print, and so their information is out there being used without their explicit permission or comprehension.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks Jeff. I guess we need to take it upon ourselves to show folks
      the way.

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  • http://www.vandenhurkpr.com Ann Marie van den Hurk, APR

    Social media is a great connector, but it does open a whole new world of privacy concerns. I've always not been OK with being able to Google my address and a map with my house shows up… that's a high creep factor. Like with everything, you have to think smart to be safe.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Well said, Ann Marie. Thanks for the feedback.

  • lfabris

    i came across this privacy protection app for facebook. have you ever used it? read about it in this article about useful apps for parents — scroll down in the article to get to the privacy app. http://www.lawfirms.com/facebook-sex-offender-a…. would love feedback before using it.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      I haven't tried these apps and am a little leery of the site. They may
      be above board, but with no verification or obvious official ties to
      law enforcement, etc., I would proceed with extreme caution using
      these apps.

      • lfabris

        thanks for the feedback. i was a little cautious as well.

  • http://twitter.com/sashamace Sasha Mace

    I would argue that the opposite of what you suggest will become reality. No one will care about safeguarding data because, as you illustrated, it is only becoming more and more open. That die is cast. Imagine instead, all of these systems becoming increasingly integrated to the point where your SSN and CC numbers will be public knowledge (in truth they more or less already are) as well – it will be the multi-factor authentication and, indeed Trust, that your digital presence comprises, that makes you secure. Indeed the more everyone shares and “open sources” the safer the “system” will be.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks for the perspective Sasha. I'm not sure I see how the scenario
      you portray can be safe or even possible. Never say never, but SSN and
      CC numbers being public just makes the various levels of verification
      the new card numbers. You're just adding layers of work onto it for
      everyone. Still, it's an interesting scenario to think about. Thanks.

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  • http://twitter.com/Navel_me Navel Me

    True…it's defenetly worth to think about the personal data stored in social web…

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