Facebook Users Beware & Take Care!
In my efforts to expand my reach in promoting my photography, designs, and songs, I have been laying the groundwork for developing a cyber presence for Blue Beach Song™. I began with my website, my blog, and my shops on Zazzle and CafePress. Within weeks, I had customers send me emails or comments about my designs and photography and suggesting other sites where I should promote my Blue Beach Song Shop.
Aware of how easily it is for someone with mal-intent to gather personal information from people on the Internet, I checked out the venues and cautiously began expanding my promotion efforts, which included a MySpace page, a Twitter account, and now a Facebook page, among others. But I was most concerned, just recently, when I established a Facebook business page for my Blue Beach Song Shop.
The application process requested my name, my birth date, my email password, and my contact information, among other things. Really? My email password? Red flags went up and I ended the application process before completing it and without giving them that information. However, I thought about people like my mother and my children, who trustingly and unknowingly would have given that information. All of a sudden, I heard in my mind the Lost In Space robot shouting, “Warning! Warning! Danger! Danger!” But is anyone listening?
Facebook states that they use your email and password to download your contact list and find your email contacts on Facebook. That is what they state and that may be their intent. However, once you enter that information, the Facebook servers/computers (and potentially rogue employees or hackers) now have the password to your email account and access to your confidential and personal emails. Why take on the responsibility of safeguarding the email passwords of millions of people, when they can easily look each other up on Facebook?
In the Terms and Conditions to get an email account you, the user, agree not to share your password with others. Everyone knows that. So why does the Facebook application make it seem like you have to provide them your email password in order to get a Facebook page? Most people do not realize that you do not have to give them your email password, and I suggest you don’t. You can find your own friends on Facebook, just look them up in the search window.
To become a fan of Blue Beach Song on Facebook:
Although “Danger, Danger” rang out in my ears, and I was leery of a website that would ask for my email password, I considered the potential for promotion on a site with over 300 million users (Facebook Press Room, September 2009). After much thinking, I decided that if I controlled the information I gave Facebook, perhaps I could limit the dangers that could result from creating a Blue Beach Song Shop business page on Facebook.
I began by getting a new and separate email account to use in the sign-up process, and although it would have no contacts and no emails, I was still not giving them my new email password. My Facebook presence was meant to be purely business, not personal, so I thought that I could limit my personal exposure. Ultimately, however, I know that the Internet is a web of sorts where someone can easily connect you to all your past and present interactions, be they personal or business ventures.
Although armed with a strategy, the plan to keep my Facebook presence purely business-oriented did not end up that way. It turns out that Facebook automatically creates a personal profile page for the person creating the business page. So there I was with a Facebook business page for Blue Beach Song Shop and a personal profile page for me. Hmm… now what? It was tempting to reach out to my family and friends on Facebook, given that I had this new, empty, personal profile page just sitting there with no “friends,” looking pathetic and lonely, connected only to my business Facebook page. Hmmm… (Faintly in the distance: “Warning, Will Robinson!”)
Well, I remembered my cousins mentioning they had a Facebook page a while back, so, I looked them up on the Facebook people search, found them, and sent them a “friend request,” they accepted, and voila, we were all connected. Easily sharing little nothings, music, random comments, photos… how cool. It was warm and fuzzy family time, connecting from the safety of our homes. And then I thought about a few high school friends with whom I had lost touch over the years and, voila, a couple of them were on Facebook. Way cool and way too easy.
I was getting comfortable and the little robot’s voice was getting faint and distant, “Danger, Danger.” I was ignoring the voice and my own plan not to turn my Facebook experience into something personal – it’s supposed to be just for my business, I reminded myself. And then I found a group for my grade school, and an alumni group for my undergrad university, and my graduate school had a Facebook page, and then I became a “fan” of a few of my favorite channels, the History Channel and PBS, which amazingly also had Facebook pages. And before I knew it, in one week’s time, I was addicted and part of a cyber-web of friends and fans, and much more personally connected than I intended to be. Yikes!
Before I connected with anyone, however, I did make sure to become thoroughly familiar with all of the privacy settings, and I strictly limited how much Facebook can share about me with other Facebook users, applications, and third parties. This is perhaps the single most important thing you need to do before you invite anyone to be your “friend.” You should also limit whose “friend” invitations you accept, it should not be a popularity contest, think quality over quantity, and keep in mind that Facebook does not authenticate the identity of new members.
Remember that everything you write is out there for the world to see and it is out there forever on the Facebook servers and the Internet. Employers can and will do cyber investigations before they hire you and after they hire you. Your cyber fingerprint will be out there forever – everything you write, every photo you post, every discussion board comment, in effect, all the information you put out there will be public to the world, forever. Talk about cyber-gum on your shoe!
Social networking sites, like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, create intimate environments where you might feel safe sharing more than you wish you had. Cyber-criminals and identity thieves can collect information from you and about you that may contain clues to the passwords or security questions you use in your other websites and financial institutions. Burglars may learn from your twittering that you are going on vacation and get your address on Facebook. Phishing emails may include names and information they collected from your postings to get you to respond to their emails. You may find an increase in spam from third parties trying to sell you something they know you are interested in, based on the information they buy from these sites. These cyber-hooligans might share photos and videos embedded with malware, adware, spyware, trojan horses, and viruses to infect your computer and steal or destroy whatever information you might have on your computer.
Most importantly, if you do nothing else, protect your children and warn them that people may not always be who they say they are and that they should never share any personal information. Take the time to explain to them specifically what kind of personal information they (and you) should never share with anyone: age, location, contact information, passwords, names of family members or pets, mother’s maiden name, schools they attend, places where they hang out, and too many other things to list here.
When you post or write anything on the Internet, or on one of those warm and fuzzy social networking sites, imagine yourself posting it on a billboard, on a busy highway, and ask yourself if there is anything that you are about to write or post that you would not want a stranger, a criminal, or your worst enemy to know about you. Take a moment to think about it. And when in doubt – don’t.
“Warning, Will Robinson!” “Danger! Danger!” Remember the robot on the 1965 show, Lost In Space? He was always warning the Robinsons, but they never listened. Sometimes we are all Lost In CyberSpace, but we should listen to our internal voice warning us.
Do some research on how to better protect yourself on the Internet, on Facebook, and on these other social networking sites. Here are a few sites with some good prevention information:
- SOPHOS – http://www.sophos.com/security/best-practice/facebook.html [Their expertise covers every area of network security—including viruses, spyware, adware, intrusion, spam and malicious URLs. This article is specific to Facebook security measures you should take.]
- ShoreBank – http://ro-ro.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=42734582605 [Tips to Avoid Online Identity Theft]
- FDIC – http://www.fdic.gov/consumers/consumer/guard/index.html [Video: Guard Against Internet Thieves and Electronic Scams – Don’t Be An Online Victim]
Martie Hevia (c) 2009 – All Rights Reserved
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