Monday, December 13, 2010

Then James Earl Jones said, " Louis Gray."

If you go online in any way, shape, or form, you have to decide upon a privacy strategy - otherwise, services such as Facebook will make your privacy decisions for you. How much information about yourself and those around you do you want to share with others?

I have changed my privacy practices over the years. In fact, until recently, much of my online interaction was conducted under a pseudonym. However, I do still keep some things private - not only for my own benefit, but also for the benefit of those around me. (My dog doesn't want the world to know everything about her.)

Louis Gray has a somewhat different set of privacy practices than I do. Not that he reveals EVERYTHING about himself - no one does - but some of the things that he chooses to share are not things that I would choose to share - for example, I would not join Blippy like he did. I'm not saying that I'm right and that Gray is wrong; I'm just saying that we have differing comfort levels for sharing information.

For example, when I wrote the blog post Why you should never, ever, EVER delete any of your inactive accounts, I mentioned one service that Gray had quit - Plaxo - but did not explicitly mention another service that he quit. Why not? Because if I named the service, then it would be (slightly) easier for someone to sign up for the service and take Gray's old URL. But when Gray commented on my post, he had no reservation about naming both of the services (which he had named in his original post, anyway).

But even Gray, who is comfortable with sharing, can get a slight surprise. It's one thing when a few hundred or a few thousand techies know your credit card habits, the ages of your children, and your work history; it's another thing entirely when CNN shares all of these things with thousands upon thousands of readers on the CNN website. Now there are people who think that Paladin Advisors is a faculty club in Harry Potter, but who also know that Matthew and Sarah like techno music, that Louis is Mormon, and that he goes to a dentist in Cupertino.

Oh, and they also know a phone number which they can use to reach Gray.

I do not publicly link to Facebook comments from anyone, but Gray has noted that he has been getting a call every few minutes, and that his mobile phone battery is dying as a result.

Well, if Gray's battery wears out completely, at least we'll all know when he buys one.

Another person who may buy a new mobile phone battery at some point in the future is Robert Scoble, another person who is somewhat open about what he does every day. And this has its benefits - Scoble snagged an interview by publicizing his own number.

And it's not just Gray and Scoble. Scoble (among others) has noted that all of us will jettison our privacy settings - for a price:

But yesterday Gary Vaynerchuk said you will check in if you get free beer. Damn straight!

People are already checking in before the free beer has arrived.

And that gets to the heart of our new privacy construct: we will share our privacy +if+ we get something in return.

Not that Gray is seeking free beer, mind you, but perhaps someday someone will offer a discount on breast pumps for a public check-in. You can already get auto insurance discounts if you just share a little bit of information:

Progressive Insurance already has about 100,000 customers signed up for its Snapshot (formerly known as MyDrive) device. It's a dongle that plugs into a vehicle's diagnostic port, collecting data about stops, speed and driving time for at least 30 days while wirelessly reporting that data back to Progressive. Drivers who meet Progressive's standards can qualify for a 25%t to 30% discount.

And it's not just Progressive:

Starting Jan. 1, California will allow in-car cameras, a boon to California-based DriveCam, which has 150,000 users among commercial truck drivers and parents of teen-age drivers so far. It's system records video clips of the driver and front of the vehicle just before and after a crash along with data about the car's movement, and is already frequently used to determine who's at fault in a crash.

More here. Now I'm sure that some people will argue that there is no problem in sharing this type of stuff, and if it finds you breaking the law, tough.

So where are you on the privacy scale? What information do you choose to share? What information do others choose to share about you?

And if you want to take advantage of the non-existent prize that I am not going to give away for the best comment on this post, please post your full name, your birth name, your address, your Social Security Number (Todd Davis, we already have yours), your weight, and your cholesterol level in the comments.
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