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Facebook-Connected Smartphones Can Compromise Privacy

Experts advise users of social networks and smartphones to be on top of their security settings. Smartphones now allow users to “check in” with location-based services, making that information available to friends and even non-friends. Ed Mayberry has more.



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Facebook makes frequent changes to privacy settings. Karl Volkman is chief technical officer for IT outsourcing firm SRV Network.

“Oh, absolutely it’s hard to keep up with, and it’s amazing that so many people put so much of their trust into those types of venues. The one thing that I think most people forget when they’re on them — it is a public forum, of sorts.”

Volkman says even if you limit who sees your Facebook information, there are other ways it can be spread on the internet.

“Because you’re sharing information with people, you know, you’re giving information that they potentially, again, could take out of the Facebook environment. Take it out, put it on another social network. Cut and paste type of thing. As long as I can read it, I can move it. That’s much more danger than one particular person doing all the Facebook security settings.”

Ed: “And then if you link to, say, Twitter on some of your postings, that complicates things further, I would think.”

“You got it, absolutely. The only safe way to be on the internet is not to be on the internet.”  

People are increasingly sharing more of their lives online through social networks. Brendon Lynch is chief privacy officer at Microsoft.

“When they’re younger, they feel much freer with the information sharing. But as they get closer to things like looking for a job, for example, they may really want to sort of change that and be more controlled about what might be the consequences of sharing those photographs from college, for example.”

Microsoft says 93 percent of the U.S. population uses cell phones. Even simpler phones are trackable to the closest cell tower. Those capabilities are now a lot more refined to pinpoint an individual’s location more accurately.

“First of all they should feel happy about these capabilities. There are a range of good services out there to help them with navigation or to get local weather reports or to find the nearest coffee shop. There are concerns. They are looking for more ways to control where they’re sharing their information. First of all, there are privacy settings within the phones and within the applications that use location to help them, and that’s a good first place to start.”

And people are using “check in” features for social networks.

“There are settings on the phone about sharing your location in the first place and within the social network. One of the tips that we have for people is to be aware of that and to be concious with who you’re sharing that with. It may be that you don’t want to share it with everyone in your social network but only a subset of those, and it’s increasingly possible to do that sort of thing.”

Karl Volkman, once again, with SRV Network, on the bottom line…

“You know what, if it’s something that you don’t want someone else to see, be very careful about putting it out there.”

And change your password often.

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