Social Networking is Loads of Fun … Just Watch Your Step




“That’ll teach you to lecture me. Get me another anger management therapist.” – Colonel Moon, “Die Another Day,” MGM, 2002

Just as the Internet turned 40, a “Wall Street Journal” article suggested email was “over the hill.” Today’s online tools enable folks to instantly reach a wider audience (Facebook, LinkedIn, other social networking sites, Twitter). They can tailor their reach with specific content (Flickr, YouTube). Whether it’s on their smartphone, tablet or ultrabook, they’re connected to, communicating with someone … anyone.

Everyone, Everywhere – The capability to instantly reach and share information with almost anyone anywhere has made being online as important as physically talking to someone. The Web portals and special interest sites instantly help you share information, ideas, moments. When the time is right, you bring him, her or them into your inner circle.

Always Connected
According to Nielsen Company:
- 1.5 billion people in the US, EU, Australia and Brazil used email last August
- Year-to-year, that was an increase of 42 percent
- One billion people in the same areas were on social networking sites
- Year-to-year, that was an increase of 52 percent

It’s no wonder the “Journal” article forecast that email was going to disappear and those fantastic, fun, free social networking sites were going to revolutionize and speed the way we communicate with one another.

Sharing – The growing popularity of friends, family and special interest group sites not only enriches your life but the growing amount of data available on the web, and makes it available to more people who can tap into that information … regardless of their motives. The Web is so great, some companies encourage workers to promote their companies on the social networking sites. The challenge, according to some social scientists, is that by sending out their promotional messages, people blur their personal and professional lives. And there are no laws to shield an employee who accidentally discloses confidential information.

Multiple Clouds – Today, there’s no single social networking area you stay with. Most people jump from site to site, cloud to cloud without a second thought. Each jump leaves digital data behind.

Some firms believe social networking may divert employees’ attention from “real work.” Robert Half Technology found that:
- 32 percent of their surveyed firms banned social network access at work
- 45 percent allowed access for business purposes
- 13 percent allowed full access to the sites during work hours

Twitter, on the other hand, is a fast, effective way to follow and be followed. Lots of people think it’s a huge kids’ hangout. With messages limited to only 140 characters, lots of parents think that’s about the attention span of their kids.

Tweeting
Then, along came a young (obviously smart) brokerage firm intern who wrote a market white paper saying that young folks couldn’t be bothered with Twitter … they had moved on. That blew the old fogies away (30-45-year-olds). They had to redo all their forecasts. It seems Twitter stats reinforce younger folks’ position.

140 Characters – While a lot of people still wonder why Twitter has become so successful, a growing number find the service ideal for exchanging quick thoughts or news bites without the necessity of drill down information which can be obtained from any number of other services. In our rapidly changing environment, instant information is becoming vital for people of all ages. Good thing we can count to 140!!!

Anyone with an ounce of common sense is naturally worried about his or her Internet privacy. Well yes, you had to give the sites a little information so you could take advantage of all of that free stuff. But heck, look at all the freedom you get in return!

What You Don’t Know – Few people wade through the small print of the end-user agreements they accept so willingly to have access to the free service. As a result, the majority of people using social networking sites and services don’t fully understand/appreciate their privacy or lack of it. Unfortunately, most people have a false sense of Web security.

According to “Consumer Reports:”
- 61 percent of the people surveyed were confident that their online activity/information wasn’t shared
- 57 percent were certain companies had to say they were collecting data and what they were going to do with it
- 48 percent knew that if you were going to use their information, you had to get their consent … first
- 43 percent believed you had to get a court order to monitor online activities

As M said, “Did you expect an apology?” Government security agencies worldwide have proven they can move in swiftly, silently, accurately. All you have to do is read the EULA (end-user license agreement) when you sign up for their free microblog or social site service.

Suddenly, you realize they can:
- gather all the information they want about you
- use that stuff at their discretion
- use your images
- sell your information
- delete/misplace your files

As James said, “It’s only a number…” There’s no sense in agreeing with Jinx when she commented, “Yo’ mama. And she told me to tell you she’s really disappointed in you.” Don’t think the site/service owners deserve all your screams … not by a long shot! Want to know something about someone? Anyone? Go to the Web and crawl around for awhile. If you’re good (heck, even half-way decent), you’ll find out everything you ever wanted to know … and more. If you’re great at it, you’ve found yourself a new career!

Right Behind You
Companies like PallTech have databases of just about every American name, address, date of birth and social security number. And there are similar organizations in other countries that collect these little kernels of information for collection agencies, banks, corporate HR departments and “others.” There are two groups very interested in what goes on with your tweets, site visits, you name it – the good guys…and the bad guys! In-Q-Tel, the CIA investment group, just dropped a bundle into a quiet little company called Visible Technologies. Everyone in the intelligence community is getting really good with “open source intelligence.” These people crawl over a million web sites a day scraping 10s of millions of posts and conversations on blogs, online forums, Flickr, YouTube, Twitter, email, you name it. They’re as bold as Graves, “Let’s up the weapons, shall we? Let’s do this the old-fashioned way – first blood drawn from the torso!” Of course, as a matter of policy, government agencies never touch closed social sites like Facebook! You’re probably as skeptical as James, “You know, you’re cleverer than you look.” Those are the good guys!

Growing H*Commerce
The new H*Commerce crowd is even more sophisticated and has a “no holds barred” approach. They have the best hardware/software experts that money can buy! They search Tweets … Facebook notations … Pinterest notes … LinkedIn comments … little bits of your information from anywhere/everywhere which they piece together and BAM!!!!

Smart Bomb – Very intelligent people are building lucrative careers developing software and solutions that can fly low over social networking sites and the entire Internet searching out specific information about specific people. When it is all gathered, the bomb drops!!!! As Zao said, “It appears we are equal … in the eyes of spies.” As one official noted, supply and demand drives the market and there’s a huge demand in the shadow economy. People put so much personal information on the Web, it is just irresistible for attackers — photos, resumes, personal diaries, everything is just floating there in the cloud. Add social media sites/services and you develop a larger digital footprint. Actually, that footprint is up in the cloud.

That’s probably why this year’s X-Force report found:
- 1,100 percent increase in new malicious Web links
- Increase of malicious content on trusted sites, search engines, blogs, bulletin boards, personal Web sites, online magazines, mainstream news sites
- The amount of suspicious, obfuscated, concealed, monitored content doubled between Q1, Q2
- Malicious code in legitimate Web sites increased 50 percent from Q4 to Q1 2013, doubled Q1 to Q2

Or, how about these items we snatched from the news?
- Gawker Media tricked into featuring malicious Suzuki ads
- Facebook password-reset spam is botneck attack
- UK newspaper Web site hacked; 500,000 job seekers affected
- Adobe loses five million user passwords
- Gaping security hole in Times Warner cable routers
- LoroBot ransomware encrypts files, demands $300 for decryption

O.K., it’s really everyone’s fault. We live in an age where microblogs and social sites are the way we keep in touch. You might want to be a little less personal, a little less intimate with 1,500 of your close, personal friends … a couple of dozen … the person on the other end of your Tweet. As James said, “I’m still not quite sure how good you are.”  Maybe it’s time to get dressed up and spend a night on the town.

Relax, Unwind – If you really thought about all of the information that is out there on the Web and Internet, you’d probably never leave your bedroom…ever. But there are tools and services available to protect your information as much as possible. When you know you’re doing your best, it is time to get dressed up and go out and enjoy yourself. Have a good martini … shaken, not stirred. Trust us, the social networking sites will be there when you get back. So will the good and the bad guys!!! You’ll look across the mob you have following your every stroke and think James was right…”Equal… but not even.”

andym
About the author:
Andy has worked in front of and behind the TV camera and radio mike. Unlike most PR people he listens to and understands the consumer’s perspective on the actual use of products. He has written more than 100 articles in the business and trade press. During this time he has also addressed industry issues and technologies not as corporate wishlists but how they can be used by normal people. Unable to hold a regular 9-5 job, he has been a marketing and communications consultant for more than ...


  

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