Unwarranted Privacy Freakout?

Maybe it’s because I’m in the business of the lawful uncovering of information or that I am so used to my profession that nothing shocks me much anymore, but the “privacy concerns” of others amuse me.

I had a friend who recently dropped her Facebook account. I guess she just didn’t like the idea how much her information was being “shared.” Congress has even started to make some noise about looking into FB’s ways.

First off, lesson one in social media. It is just that: “social.” But you have the power to determine how much or how little of yourself makes it to the internet. Just like there are some simple and quick ways to adjust your Facebook privacy settings. I do admit though that it’s annoying to have to take the time to check that you don’t want your FB to be linked to Yelp or your daily newspaper or to other outlets.

I am not overly concerned that advertisers might learn and share information that I like: dogs, golf, rugby, Oakland, California, and Coors Light.

You then had the “spokeo warning” that was making the rounds. Spokeo is a web site like trackle.com or 123people.com or zabasearch that aggregates or pulls together information under your name. I wouldn’t worry too much about Spokeo because it’s garbage. All the site does is comb the internet for mentions of your name. The odd Spokeo feature is that it has a little meter for your alleged credit rating. I tested it out and it pretty much pegs everyone as the same. Anyone who would use spokeo and think that it’s accurate is living a fantasy. Much of the same information is available through on-line public records.

All of these concerns that pop up are normal, healthy and evolutionary. I remember when my 79-year-old father discovered that Mapquest could give you directions right to someone’s house or Google was posting photos of peoples houses. He was aghast, just like many others who feared internet banking, PayPal and shopping on the internet.

Nothing in life is free. So if you use social media there will always be some slight risk. But risk financial and otherwise is always a fact of life.

For now fraud risk still comes more from in-person encounters than from over the internet. I had a friend whose credit card number was apparently stolen by a clerk at a gas station. There was no “skimmer” reading his card number but just the guy at the register who helped himself. I have had lockers and cars broken into but knock on wood not my meager bank account.

Lastly, I always get these ugly looks from people when they notice that I am videotaping in public. I don’t engage them in debate. I just collapse the tripod and skedaddle. I have the legal right to videotape in public, so long as I don’t use a zoom lens to look inside a dwelling or commit any sort of trespass.

How is using my video camera in public any different from the “eye in the sky” we now have everywhere in public? At your bank, your shopping center, your downtown street and your gym you are on camera. We just had such video prove useful in identifying the Times Square bombing suspect and in identifying two Oakland teen-agers involved in a fatal assault on a 59-year-old man.

Sometimes our privacy concerns are valid but a little misplaced.