At the risk of dating myself, I miss the good old days when your information belonged to you and you could control with whom you shared it.
Today, it seems that every company with a web site wants us to create an account so they can gather as much information as they can about us and share it with whomever they want, all in the name of “helping” us:
- Tell us what kind of food you like and we’ll “help” you find restaurants.
- Tell us where you are and we’ll “help” you find great deals close to you.
- Tell us how much you earn and we’ll “help” you find the right bank, credit card, investment fund, etc.
- And, of course, log into your account with us before you do anything so that we can track EVERYTHING you do and find new ways to “help” you that you didn’t even know you needed!
I get it – the more you know about me, the more you can “help” me. But I think it has gotten out of control and it’s only getting worse.
The recent revelations about how Facebook collects and shares data from its users is a real wake-up call for many of us, but Facebook is definitely not the only one who does this. Of course, Facebook gives you the ability to turn off information sharing in many cases, but that requires you to both find and change all of the appropriate settings in your account.
Here’s another example that affects millions of people all over the world. Windows 10 currently has 19 DIFFERENT SECTIONS IN ITS PRIVACY SETTINGS and many of these sections have multiple items. Initially, Microsoft pointed out how this would give users more control over what data they share with Microsoft and other companies with programs and apps on their computers. It takes 10-15 minutes just to go through all of these settings and turn off the ones that are turned on by default. “No big deal,” you might be thinking. “I can turn those off easily enough.” But…certain larger Windows 10 updates seem to reset or reactivate some of these settings, so you can’t just do this once and forget it.
We know that just about every account we create has privacy settings (and/or privacy notices), but WHAT ARE THE DEFAULT SETTINGS created for us when we open those accounts and when the companies providing us with services update and upgrade their services?
I suggest that any setting related to sharing information should DEFAULT TO OFF! No, you cannot share my information by default. Period. You want to share it? CONVINCE ME TO LET YOU. Perhaps I’ll see ads if I don’t share my information. Perhaps you’ll charge me a fee instead of providing a service for free. Or perhaps I won’t have access to certain features unless I agree to share certain related information. These are all reasonable scenarios, BUT IT MUST BE MY DECISION, NOT YOURS!
Everyone wants the internet to be “free,” but there is no such thing as a free lunch. Never has been, never will be. But, what I do with my personal information is up to me, not to you.
Are you willing to pay Facebook $1/month to keep your information private? $5? $10? Or Microsoft? Or Google? Whatever your number, even if it’s zero, it doesn’t matter today because you don’t have a choice.
And what about the companies you already pay? Your ISP (internet service provider), for example? Should they be able to keep track of how you surf the web too? Again, we don’t really have a choice.
I don’t know if we can change anything, but we must at least be aware of what is going on and TRY to take some control of what information is being collected and shared about us.