Friday, November 27, 2009

For privacy, keep your face off Facebook

In an opinion piece on Carmi Levy tells us, briefly, the story of Facebook user Natalie Blanchard, a woman who was on long term disability leave from IBM for depression. After a year and a half of receiving benefits from IBM Canada's insurer, the checks suddenly stopped coming. Why? Because the insurance company checks things like Facebook accounts, and despite her account being set to "private" were able to find pictures of her looking decidedly un-depressed. Was miss Blanchard committing fraud? Is she the victim of an overzealous investigator looking at a few snapshots in time that don't reflect her overall state of emotional well-being? I don't know. I do know that if she had followed a simple - in theory, not so simple in practice - rule of online life she would not be having this problem. The rule? Don't put anything on line that you wouldn't want your mother/wife/children/boss/insurance investigator to see. And if you have to put it online, don't put it on Myspace, Facebook, or any other 'social' networking site. It's in the name, folks. By definition, social networking is anathema to privacy. Everything you put on Facebook will make it into the wider wild web. Count on it!