Social Media Paranoia

Technology has managed to creep up on us and before we as a society have managed to alter our laws and societal norms, public space as we’ve known it for thousands of years has changed before our eyes.The inter-connectivity and always-on world which technology has provided for us does have many positive benefits; but at what price?  Is privacy as we’ve known it dead?  Is everything about our private lives soon to be public information?  Will children born today even have a grasp of what privacy meant to those of us born before the dawn of our digital age?  What are the positive as well as negative impacts on business as well as personal lives?

In the course of a single morning, I ran across two articles, both dealing with Facebook which caused me to pause.  While Facebook was the focus of each of these two articles, the implications and potential span the gamut of nearly all social apps we have become accustomed to today.

The first was an article in the WSJ over the weekend titled “Social Media as Credit Judge Loses Traction.”  While relieved to read through and see the outcome, I am not yet convinced that the end of the story has yet been written.  Recently, there has been consideration as using Facebook in lieu of FICO scores for credit decisions.

Who among us would agree to have our texting, mobile calling and social media activities monitored and harvested for analysis in making credit decisions?  In some cases we have agreed to placing black boxes in our automobiles for lower car insurance rates, so why not our social media activities for credit scores?  What about gauging the creditworthiness of our Facebook friends as a measure of our own creditworthiness?  This is not a rhetorical question since as the WSJ reports, Mark Zuckerberg did in fact secure a patent for technology allowing lenders to access people’s creditworthiness at least in part by the creditworthiness of those in their social network. While the regulatory challenges in this instance have stood in the way, it is a sobering thought that the lending business is even entertaining the concept.

The second article was in and again involves Facebook.  The Journal reported that a man in Denmark has developed an app which uses Facebook Messenger data to track the sleep patterns for Facebook Friends.  Where are we going in our inter-connected world?  While I do occasionally log on to Facebook, I’ve long ago removed the app from my phone simply because I do not want it monitoring all of my activities.  Facebook friends are at best acquaintances and I find it creepy that a mere acquaintance can now track my sleep patterns.

In Europe, we have a right to be forgotten.  In the USA and in other places, those rights do not yet exist or are at best ambiguous.  Laws around data privacy have not caught up with the capabilities of big data and what businesses will do with it.  My take on all this?

(1) If you are a business, consider carefully what employees say or disclose about the business on social media.  While social media is a great marketing tool, there can be a dark side.

(2) As an individual, think long and hard about what is shared on social media, and even if it makes sense to leave apps logged in all the time, tacking our activity or inactivity along with other things.

Knowledge is power and the more others, including criminals can learn about us through wide open social media, the higher the risk we will become a victim of crime.



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