The Dangerous Waters Ahead

by Jason Falls |

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, 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 Used with permission.

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About the Author

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).