Don’t become a victim of the “opt in” disease

Don’t become a victim of the “opt in” disease

Padlock on LaptopDon’t become a victim of the “opt-in” disease that is spreading on the Internet. Check your privacy settings and don’t forget to read through the fine print, especially if you’re signing up for a “free” service. It’s time to be smart about cyber privacy!

If you opt in, your use of a free app or social media software comes with a hefty price tag. Your privacy is up for grabs when you log on to many of the popular Internet super-conglomerates. If you don’t clamp down on your settings, the companies are going to ride roughshod over your privacy.

“It’s all about money,” says Matt Shaffer, BendBroadband’s information security officer. “Almost anything that you use from Google, Facebook or any of the other Internet companies is free to you. In order to make money, they either sell your information or allow advertisers to target your accounts.”

When you allow apps or computer programs to access your most personal files, you imperil your privacy.

“The five-page legal document that you casually agreed to when you installed the free app probably says it’s perfectly legal to sell the information they gather from your use of their software or app,” says Shaffer.

According to Shaffer, it all comes down to the basic fact: “If it seems free, it’s not!”

“Ask yourself, ‘Where do the funds come from to create the app?’ Since it didn’t cost you a cent, you more than likely shared your personal information with the company that created the app.”

It seems as if every app nowadays asks permission to use your geo-location or contacts, whether it be your address book, Facebook or LinkedIn account. That’s no coincidence, Shaffer says.

“It is a matter of targeting you for financial gain in one way or another. Either they want to target you directly with advertising or they want to extract your information and pool it with information from other users in your area.”

It’s the same thing when it comes to the “opt-in” clause. It’s standard in North America.

“Companies are allowed to reset your privacy settings, as long as they inform you in one way or another,” Shaffer warns.

You know the drill. The company that created the free app you’re using – or the conglomerate that operates your social network  – emails you to let you know it has launched an upgraded version of its services. It could be informing you that you’ve just been opted back in to the default privacy settings. Suddenly all of your settings have been rolled back to no privacy at all.

We all decide how much privacy we need. What one person perceives as a blatant invasion of privacy is no big deal to someone else. No matter how you feel about your privacy, be cybersmart. Once you get an email from any Internet social media company you’re doing business with, go back into your privacy settings and make sure everything is just the way you like it.


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