Play at your own risk

April 13, 2010

Included in Chapter Seven of Connecting to Kink

I am constantly amazed by how willing people are to expose themselves to potential harm because someone makes it sound like fun. Most recently, I saw a rash of updates on Twitter stating “Just took ‘Which Crazy Writer Are You?’ and got: _____” which was, of course, posted with a link so others could try it.

I checked out the quiz and discovered that after you answer all the question, in order to get any results, you must hand over your Twitter user name and password. Why in the world would anyone do that? How do they know what the quiz creator will do with that information? (I got a clue about what the quiz creator intended later when I saw apologies along the lines of “Sorry if the ‘Crazy Writer’ quiz spammed everyone” accompanied by claims that they “didn’t realize it would do that.”)

No one creates Twitter quizzes, Facebook games, and applications such as Foursquare because they want to entertain you for free. They’re in it for money and they’re using your data to get it. For example, every time you sign up for a Facebook game, you give the developer of that application permission to access ALL of your personal data, including your “private” emails.

Facebook stripped away almost all pretense of privacy (while claiming to enhance it), when it changed default settings to make anything posted on Facebook public unless the poster goes to great lengths to keep the information private. Many categories of information — including your name, profile photo, list of friends and fan pages, gender, geographic region, and applications — no longer even have privacy options.

If you choose to lock your Twitter page to “protect” your tweets, your followers can still retweet them. Your tweets show up on Google searches of your name. The United States Library of Congress is archiving every single tweet.

At least one man believes his home was burglarized as a result of announcements about his vacation to his Twitter followers. The whole point of, as far as I can tell, is to tell everyone, via Twitter, where you are at any given moment, leaving yourself vulnerable to stalkers and burglars. Even those who don’t participate in Foursquare, are urged by Twitter to add their location to each tweet.

The The Internet Patrol warns: “There is an inherent problem – dare we even say it – danger – with letting the world know where you are or, even, where you aren’t.

“For example, do you really want some Twitter whacko stalking you at your place of employment? Or following you to a restaurant? Or even to your home?”

Scambusters warns that “you should be aware of the amount and type of information you’re giving out that can be used against you.”

Insurance companies are demanding access to online information about you without your explicit consent. Creditors and prospective employers are checking out your Facebook and Twitter accounts.

People have gotten fired, lost opportunities for employment, and had their disability benefits taken away because of Facebook posts. Businesses have had brands and goodwill destroyed by Twitter campaigns (sometimes deservedly). Personally, I have stopped following many of those on my Facebook friends’ list, because while I might want to know if they sold a story or won an award, I have no interest in reading about their activities on FarmVille, Candy Crush, etc.

Certainly, if you choose to hand over your passwords and other personal information to unknown developers, that’s your prerogative. Just don’t be surprised, or complain, when that data is used against you.