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Social Media Profiling: Our Privacy Under Siege

There is an important thread happening on Google+ right now that affects all of us, discussing the validity of Google’s alleged TOS stating that we are not allowed to use avatars. That we must show show our REAL picture.

These are my concerns and comments that I made on the social network:

Blog Bloke is me and I am Blog Bloke. To say anything otherwise would be schizophrenic. I am a tech author/editor and have been a fixture in blogging and social media for more than a decade. I have owned Google accounts including Blogger all of these years. In fact I have been online even longer than Google has. That speaks for itself. See, I even have my name tattooed on my forehead. It’s also somewhere else that I can’t mention, but it is kissable. So check it out.

It’s called PROFILING.

I should also mention (having once practiced law) Google set its own precedent by allowing anonymity and avatars on its accounts all these years. It also needs conformity amongst its accounts, not just a special circumstance for G+ users. Can’t suddenly change horses midstream. It ain’t right. Just saying. Especially if someone has been using the same avatar for a long time. We should have the right to privacy if we want. To hell with profiling. It’s that simple.

Unless Google is prepared to pay us all to travel to HQ on their dime and show our ID cards, who’s to know if the so-called REAL pics are for real? It is sooooo STUPID and futile.

James Thomson also said — Why would anyone consider it “hiding”? I value my privacy… and for all we know the government is working with social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and G+ to condition the public… in the end this is all leading to legislation to push an Internet ID. Show your face or you can’t use the Internet. P.S. Big Brother is watching you.

You can read more comments here. As you can see Blog Bloke has been my internet persona for over a decade and in legal terms it is now a brand and become a true entity unto itself. It is also a trademark.

Facebook started all this nonsense and Google seems to be following the pied piper. It is a reason why I never actively used Facebook.

I was hoping Google would be less evil but we also have to be realistic. It is to their advantage to profile us to make their marketing more effective.

I love this pic by Chris Pirillo, superimposing his face as King Leonidas leading the Spartan last stand against the Persian onslought. In this case he’s using humour to make a point about the Google+ avatar fiasco. Says it all.

3oo PirillosPersonal rights can and will be lost forever unless we make a stand. You can count on it.

Don’t believe me? Then read this Google statement that all profiles must be public and private profiles will be deleted after July 31, 2011. Interestingly it goes on to say:

Keep in mind that your full name and gender are the only required information that will be displayed on your profile; you’ll be able to edit or remove any other information that you don’t want to share.

So if only “full name and gender are required” why am I receiving complaints Google+ is also requiring birth dates to sign up?  And if profile pics aren’t required then why not avatars?

Hmm. Now that doesn’t make sense does it.

Well I’m sure Google has a perfectly reasonable explanation for that conundrum. ;-)

But this isn’t only about avatars or birth dates. Online privacy concerns go way beyond that. It’s about geolocationing, tracking our movements, what we buy, who we consort with, our habits, and giving our private info to lord knows who.

It is PROFILING, and that is something I am not comfortable with.

You know, it wasn’t that long ago when only crooks were profiled. Now we’re all being treated like criminals and social media is enabling it.

It’s time to wake up and smell the coffee folks, and the time to take action is now. There’s something afoot here and the odor isn’t all that pleasing from my perspective.

When I was a litigator I lived by the Captain Kirk credo “the best defense is an offense”.  It has always served me well.

While we’re waiting for the official word from Google we need to call them out with a preemptive strike and tell them what we think now, because it is obvious to me our privacy is under seige from social media.

Wait for someone else to do it for you and it will be too late. Speak now or forever hold your peace.

I don’t know about you, but if I’m right about this trend I will probably boycott social media and stick with my blog. But that’s just my two cents.

It’s also a reason why I believe REAL blogging is still where it’s at. It’s the safest place to be and I have control.

What about you? Do you think Social Media is attacking our privacy, and what are YOU going to do about it?

Written July 9th, 2011 by | 55 Comments | Filed under: Featured Tips, Privacy Tips, Social Media Tips , ,

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There are 55 Comments so far to “Social Media Profiling: Our Privacy Under Siege”

  1. I’m going to agree and disagree with you since you mentioned more than one thing here.

    I will agree with the avatar thing, because there are many people like yourself who have been identified with their avatars for a long time.

    I will disagree with privacy being under siege because no one has to participate in social media at all, and if we choose to then we have to follow the rules these people set up. Trust me, I know where you’re coming from.

    I’m looking at my smartphone debating whether to turn off the Google location service because they’re the only ones that say they might sell certain information to advertisers. It’s a question because so many things run through Google, since they’re the owners of HTC phones (didn’t know that when I bought it) that turning off that service renders a lot of other things inoperable.

    BTW, I wasn’t asked for my birth date on Google+.

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    Reply by: BLOGBloke at 4:32 pm said...

    @Mitch Mitchell; Hi Mitch and thanks for dropping.

    I can’t differentiate opting out from an attack on our personal privacy, especially now that everything is so interconnected like you mention. It shouldn’t have to be that way either. If we say nothing they will just do whatever they want. If we all stick together and scream loud enough they will have to comply.

    I turned off Geo location on my Android phone but apps like Google maps or Twitter for instance still work fine.

    When I joined my wife’s Gmail account to Google+ it demanded her birth date. Maybe you had already added it beforehand.

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    Reply by: Mitch Mitchell at 5:13 pm said...

    @BLOGBloke, The problem is that we’re not all going to “stick together”. I was talking to a 25 year old today about privacy and she said she didn’t understand what the big deal was. The reality is that we grew up with an evil empire called the USSR and they only heard about it in school. Privacy overall isn’t their issue; for the most part they rationalize it away. We’re the old guard; we’re not going to make much of a difference because the people working on all these things don’t see us as their audience anyway; they see younger people as their audience.

    So we’re back to either playing the game or not, and making the decisions which privacy things we’re going to select or not. They don’t have to comply; heck dude, they’re not going to comply, just like FB isn’t going to comply. They can pretty much just wait us out; they have way more years than we do.

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    Reply by: BLOGBloke at 6:32 pm said...

    @Mitch Mitchell, the problem is there’s not enough of us getting the word out. And if we take a complacent attitude nothing will get done, that’s for certain. I do my best to spread the word but I’m just one person. Even acting alone I have seen great change happen for the better, so imagine what will happen if more of us get involved. Having made a career in advocacy I can assure you I have seen it happen. So don’t roll over and die. Speak up. Write about it. That’s what blogs are for.

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    Reply by: BLOGBloke at 7:03 pm said...

    @Mitch Mitchell, I just thought of an incentive for you to hopefully become more actively involved. With facial recognition software they can racially profile you. Is that something you want to see?

    Even if you don’t want to write about it at least link to me here, +1 or like me in show of your support.

    Cheers.

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  2. Let’s see what I come up with as a take on what you’ve written here. As for the racial profiling, one, that’s happening anyway, and two, if they’re doing it on everyone, I can’t really call it racial profiling so that doesn’t work on me.

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    Reply by: BLOGBloke at 7:24 pm said...

    @Mitch Mitchell, alternatively we can just do nothing and see how well that works.

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  3. The use of avatars should be acceptable on any social media site. After all, what guarantee is there that a “photograph” of the person is really the person in question. As you posted, Google has already established the precedent of accepting the avatar as an acceptable alternative to the photo. This amounts to a rule change, which they are probably defending based on Google + being a new site.

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    Reply by: BLOGBloke at 1:27 am said...

    @Wayne Hurlbert, more like “rule” of law. I don’t care what their TOS says. They can’t defend that position because they are amalgamating all of their older apps with Google+. It’s indefensible.

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  4. Google and other social sites don’t really use their heads when making rules. I can use my xbox avatar’s pic. Its got a face so what keeps Google from saying its not a real picture.

    As far as geo locationing goes its good to have it on so I can find my way to a new address, but then is google going to share my location with the wrong people? Very confusing!

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    Reply by: BLOGBloke at 1:48 pm said...

    @Curtis, as far as I’m concerned tracking me and divulging that information to anybody else ARE the “wrong” people. It’s my decision to let anybody know where I’m heading. Not Google’s. Period.

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  5. Do you have dangerous side of social media?

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    Reply by: BLOGBloke at 1:21 pm said...

    @Mete KUMBAR, you can start reading here: http://www.blogbloke.com/index.php?s=danger+social+media

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  6. Hi Big Brother Bloke,

    Is Little Brother Google working for Big Brother Obama?

    P.S. In case my comment is flagged as SPAM, the Obama link is humor not SPAM. :)

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    Reply by: BLOGBloke at 1:18 pm said...

    @Miss Moneypenny, hi sweety. Missed you around here.

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  7. You and I have been talking about issues of privacy for a while now and for me it came to a head the other day. I needed time to sort out the issues and took a bit of time off.

    This morning I came to my own conclusions and did a post on Google+. If you do not mind, I am going to put it in here as it does go with what you are talking about.

    Here goes:

    “”The topic of privacy has become a contentious issue for many people and rightly so. From the extreme of Mark Zuckerbergs point of view that “privacy has evolved over the years and that in essence privacy is dead” to those who feel that anything that invades their privacy in any manner is to be dealt with in a swift and ax cutting manner has created a polarization and an “us and them” attitude.

    I would like to suggest ( and risk eggs being thrown at me) that we have indeed given up our privacy, but it happened long before the web. From the time we allowed governments to keep tabs on us via income tax, social security numbers ( Social insurance numbers in Canada) to television shows such as the first reality TV back in 1992 when MTV first broadcast “The Real World” or when we pay bills on line, we opened ourselves up to giving up our privacy.

    The fact is we live in a “voyeuristic” culture and changing the hands of time is not really possible but I do feel that if we are really aware of going on we can choose to make better decisions. I also believe that if Google+ is to be a success, then the issue of privacy ( which they are in a manner of speaking doing with their take out data if you leave) needs to be respected in every way.

    I have seen such comments from people saying that they will only talk to “real” people with “real pictures and I say to them…hogwash!

    As long as people are verified as being real and not a bot that should be the main concern of any responsible company and as long as people are contributing to a conversation in a “real” and authentic manner, that should be the concern to any person on any network.

    If you will note, I have changed my “picture” on Google+..I did this in protest against those who are against avatars and the rumor mill that ONLY real pictures or avatars will be allowed ( I am still waiting to see what Google+’s position is on this matter).

    I believe this is important, I believe that we have the right to make a decision about our privacy and if others do not understand…oh well!”"

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    Reply by: BLOGBloke at 2:52 pm said...

    @Diane, “I believe that we have the right to make a decision about our privacy” … EXACTLY!

    Or in this day age it is perhaps better to say we “should” have the right because I believe that option is quickly eroding. That is the purpose of this post. To raise awareness that if we rest on our laurels our rights and/or options will be gone if we’re not vigilant.

    I for one have not given up on my right to privacy and I will go down fighting defending that position if need be.

    Privacy goes far beyond just the issue of avatars and anybody who can’t see that or doesn’t care is a fool. IMHO.

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    Reply by: Diane (blogneta) at 3:20 pm said...

    @BLOGBloke, we have grown complacent in our culture ( speaking Western culture). At one time we took the matter of privacy as something to be upheld and our right to have, but over time we as a people have taken that away from ourselves. Every time the phone company, the bank or any other institution comes to us with a “simple” survey under the guise of improving customer service ( as an example) we give our privacy away without even a thought and they can target us based on our data.

    Many people are going to read these comments and go -whats the big deal? So what if this company ( Google+, Facebook) want this or that…they have that right - do they? When we understand that a social network is about social interactions and personal relationships, one would think that it would be in the company’s best interest for their revenue to want to accommodate “all” people …otherwise they should be saying at the very beginning and very loud..stay out if you do not want to divulge your identity.

    What has be scratching my head is that there is a solution that is so simple even a non geek such as myself can figure it out…The company has a right to know that a person is real…it is a simple technology to have a person verified..the user can use their screen name and avatar knowing that their information is safe and other users know that the person they are talking about is not a bot.

    why is this so difficult and what the heck am I missing?

    I value my privacy..it is my right to talk to people and to share as I deem fit what others should know about ME…not anyone else…if people can not handle that… well - that their problem it sure is not mine!

    That is my rant for the day… have a great day

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    Reply by: BLOGBloke at 4:09 pm said...

    @Diane (blogneta), that’s true .. Twitter has a verification process but it seems to be mostly for celebs. Interesting analogy about the inquiring “customer service” call. Never thought of it that way. No wonder I don’t pick up the phone :-)

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  8. I have to agree and disagree with you on the whole social media profiling debate. Do I think Google is doing it Hell yes and I think it’s a steaming pant load of bull crap that they demand we have our actual pictures and names displayed. We have a right to privacy and to protect our identity, especially where we live. Let’s put it this way, let’s say I write a nasty comment you don’t like. If Google had their way you would then know what I look like and where to find me, and if your the unhinged type that puts me in danger.

    On the flip side I think to a degree it’s an almost necessary evil. You only have to look at the problems with online bullying, trolling, and internet predators who hide behind a computer screen, yet can cause all sorts of trauma.

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    Reply by: BLOGBloke at 9:09 pm said...

    @The Wolf, I can see both sides as well. But there has to be a better way than destroying my right to privacy. I believe the argument is just a thinly veiled excuse to improve their marketing, and when it comes to my privacy I will choose me every time. Thanks dropping by and for your comment.

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    Reply by: The Wolf at 9:38 pm said...

    @BLOGBloke, I agree there has to be something better then to give everyone the “blanket” treatment. Their acting like were all a bunch of criminals.

    Unfortunately there are those who need to be babysat because…..well frankly there are some people online who are kinda slow and do some really stupid things that give people like those who run Google all the ammo they need to do this.

    I wish I knew a solution to find a happy middle ground, but I think until something drastic happens it’s either going to be like the wild west or alcatraz

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    Reply by: Diane (blogneta) at 10:24 pm said...

    @The Wolf, You have made some very good points especially your last sentence “I wish I knew a solution to find a happy middle ground, but I think until something drastic happens it’s either going to be like the wild west or Alcatraz”, but I can’t help but think that there is the ulterior motive and without sounding like a totally paranoid, delusional idiot, I have to ask myself the question if the reason for real names or real pictures has to do more with Google targeting people so that they can focus on our likes and dislikes to better advertise to us?

    Am I sounding too far fetched? hard to say and time will tell.

    Great discussion going on here @BlogBloke as always

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    Reply by: BLOGBloke at 10:31 pm said...

    @Diane (blogneta), thanks for watching my back, otherwise I’d have to go medieval trolling on The Wolf.

    Just kidding of course. ;-)

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    Reply by: The Wolf at 10:47 pm said...

    @Diane (blogneta), I don’t think that’s far fetched at all. Given what other large corporations have done in the past I think their in the same thought process. That being they need to make money and nothing else matters.

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    Reply by: BLOGBloke at 10:38 pm said...

    @The Wolf, and the pendulum swings from one extreme to the next. When it comes to personal rights I’ll take the wild west every time. If Google wants to go draconian then they will need to make exceptions for established bloggers such as myself.

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    Reply by: The Wolf at 10:50 pm said...

    @BLOGBloke, I think the powers that be at Google would probably lump us all together newcomers like myself veterans alike. I think to them were all small fish in their pond

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    Reply by: Diane (blogneta) at 10:58 pm said...

    @The Wolf, correction .. just like Facebook, we are the “product” or bait if you wish to use the fishing analogy and because we come in “free” we are sold too and that is the way the world goes round and round (or supply and demand.)

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    Reply by: The Wolf at 11:02 pm said...

    @Diane (blogneta), Yeah pretty much, makes that bar code on my ass itch a little just thinking about it

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    Reply by: BLOGBloke at 11:16 pm said...

    @The Wolf, QR tattoos aren’t that far fetched, or that far off in the future.

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    Reply by: BLOGBloke at 11:07 pm said...

    @The Wolf, well for my part they can go to blazes. I was online when Sergey and Larry were still in school. Nobody will make me compromise my rights. Nobody. If I have to I will opt out or be kicked out, whichever comes first.

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    Reply by: The Wolf at 11:43 pm said...

    @BLOGBloke, Amen to that. As for QR tattoos there already here

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