We’re already into the first week of the New Year and you’ve probably come up with a dozen New Year’s resolutions for 2012. Eat better? Check. Exercise more? Check. Repair your online reputation? Er…check?
There’s no doubt that this should be among your top resolutions, especially as we look forward to an increase in online privacy that advocates have been fighting for over the past several years. While the government has been unable to come together and form the collective effort that we had hoped for, we are making progress. There is always the concern that if we take away online tracking completely, the foundation for the internet will collapse.
Since we are essentially always being tracked, it doesn’t take long for us to build up an online reputation. In fact, if you post a few pics of your kids and write about them in your Facebook status updates, you’ve already started building an online reputation for them.
Online reputations are not always what people want them to be. If you’ve found yourself amongst this group of people, it may be time to repair your online presence. Whether you want to move past your partying college ways or revamp your professional image, we have the tips you need.
1. Gather Information. Most people aren’t aware of their online reputation, so take ownership and search for yourself regularly on such site as Google and Yahoo.
2. Adjust Privacy Settings. No matter which social networking sites you’re using, new updates often restore the privacy settings to the default. Always make sure that your privacy settings are adjusted accordingly – and keep your account protected.
3. Think Public. Any time you tweet, post a status update or email, send it with the intention that the whole world is reading. Too often, people post a picture or something personal, only to find that they regret it later on.
4. Interact with the Internet. By commenting on blog posts or sites that matter to you, you can gain a credible reputation, share your beliefs and have more positive search rankings.
5. Buy Your Own Domain Name. Instead of operating underneath someone else’s platform, start your own domain name. It gives you credibility and allows you to build the reputation you want, without having to go by someone else’s rules.
The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) was established in 1998 and is a law that was passed by Congress to protect the online information of children from being shared with third parties. This law was well-intentioned and looks out for children under the age of 13, who may not have the best discretion and are often the biggest targets for marketing companies. Although privacy advocates and parents are continuously pushing for stricter laws on online privacy, it’s interesting to note that a recent study found that the majority of parents who had kids on Facebook knew it – and helped them get there.
The study was conducted by Harris Interactive and polled the parents of kids ages 10 to 14. Most were aware that their children had accounts on Facebook and actually helped them lie about their birth dates to create an account. Even though COPPA is designed to help protect kids, this law can’t carry out its full expectations when children and parents are outwardly going against its terms.
And for those who are on Facebook, you know that it’s not that hard to create an account, as a birth date is needed and just about anyone can tweak the year the child was born. Because of privacy issues, it’s difficult to check the birth date to ensure it’s legitimate, as there would need to be access to children’s birth records and other pertinent information.
As the internet grows to include more social media networking sites, COPPA rules have had to adjust their laws to protect children. However, the online privacy of children can never be truly protected when parents and kids are lying to get around them.
Most parents agree that they don’t find social networking sites like Facebook to be a threat to their child, which is why they allow them to overstep the boundaries. With the notion that ‘everyone’s on Facebook’, most parents feel that they can monitor their child just fine by watching over his or her account and being friends on Facebook.
The Federal Trade Commission doesn’t agree and warns that children under the age of 13 are not only targets of marketing companies, but also lack the awareness to watch over their information and protect themselves from predators. The best tactic – if the site isn’t designed for kids and pre-teens, let the rules speak for themselves. There’s no reason to lie to get around the hurdles, when your child will be 13 one day soon.
Source: CBS News
If you’ve ever wondered how the ads on your Google screen seem to know the types of products you’re interested in, you’re about to find out why. Google is being more transparent about how they collect and use information in response to pressure from such privacy groups as Consumer Watchdog and Electronic Frontier Foundation. The way this new system works is called “Why these ads”, and users will be able to click on them to find out how their information is used to target particular advertisements. More specifically, Google tracks geographic locations, language and search results to link users with particular ads.
When searching for a new flat panel television for example, you may search through such terms as ‘flat panel tv’, ‘flat panel HD’ and ‘flat screen television’. Google will pull these search terms to link you with flat panel television advertisements being sold in your local area or from online companies you like to shop at. To manage these advertisements, Google is placing more power in the hands of users. Not only can you click on “Why these ads” to find out how the ads were drawn with your search results, but also you can click on “Ads preferences manager” and manage the ads to better serve you.
Google believes that these tools allow users to be more in control of their tracking history, but privacy advocates feel that the general public won’t use the ad management features. In most instances, online users are too busy or just don’t care enough to actually manage their advertisements. What worries privacy advocates is that Google is actually gaining off these new features, as it appears to be that they’re more user-friendly and honest about their tracking and data collection, while in fact, the setup allows Google to keep tracking data at their convenience.
So much attention is focused on the benefits to online privacy, we often forget about the drawbacks. Of course, the big gurus such as Facebook and Google are always reminding us not to wish for too much online privacy too soon – but people are quick to assume that they just want things their way. But do they have a point?
Currently, the internet works in a unique but sneaky way. Yes, your online usage is tracked. That’s why when you log into your Facebook account for example, you see ads that relate to YOU. In fact, this computer tracking software is so intelligent, I’ve noticed that simple words you type to a friend (i.e., zoo, water park, etc.) is sensitive enough to trigger ads.
But there are many wonderful things about having an uber-intuitive machine at your hands. By giving up a slice of online privacy, my computer can do a lot for me. If I can’t remember a particular site I visited several days ago, Google will remember for me. Google also knows what I want to type before I even type it – case in point – all I have to type is “how much medi – ” and “how much medicine should I give my toddler” will come up immediately.
And thanks to weaknesses in online privacy, I can look up any address without having to call a family member for it – again – and skip out of a high school reunion because I already know what’s going on in everyone’s lives. Most importantly, I feel like I’m using an internet that is specifically tailored toward me.
Not that I don’t have concerns over being tracked, but there are many advantages to giving up some online privacy. Before we get too ahead of ourselves, it is important to remember some of the good that publicness offers.
Image Source: gigaom.com
The ‘Do Not Track’ feature that is included in many new web browsers enables users to opt out of tracking conducted by third parties. It’s one step closer to preserving your online privacy and gives users a bit more power and control when using the Internet. But are companies really adhering to the policy?
Privacy advocates have been concerned that this would be the outcome, as the FTC is not regulating these tracking sites. While the ‘Do Not Track’ feature says that a user that opts out of tracking should not have their browsing history tracked, advertising companies are finding ways around this – or, they simply don’t care.
How are advertising companies finding their way around this? Some have said they would delete the users’ cookies, but actually left them in place. Others have reported that the users opt out of advertising, but not the collection of data and information.
Ultimately, advocates say that the ability for these advertising companies to self-regulate is a joke. It just isn’t going to work unless the FTC steps in and starts monitoring the companies with strict policies to follow.
The most important thing to remember in the meantime is that you are not entirely protected, even when opting out of tracking. Online tracking has become commonplace in today’s world, but that doesn’t mean we have to lose our privacy over it.