Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

Attorney General Rob McKenna wrote the following post for our Facebook page today. Additionally, Facebook is sharing McKenna's comments on its Facebook and Privacy Page, which also includes remarks from experts at the the Future of Privacy ForumStanford Law School's Center for Internet and SocietyInformation Technology and Innovation Foundation and NetChoice.

PRIVACY IN THE ERA OF SOCIAL MEDIA 

Rob McKennaSocial media has served as a conference room, a soapbox and a matchmaker; turned passersby into breaking-news reporters; ruined and built corporate brands; and given us unprecedented access into the public and personal lives of others.

Three-quarters of the world’s Internet population visits a social network or blog, Nielsen reports. In the approximately 15 seconds it takes to read aloud the first sentence of this post, 131,002 comments will be posted on Facebook, 16,041 tweets will be sent via Twitter and 9 hours of video will be uploaded to YouTube, according to a popular social media tracker.

The exponential growth in popularity of such sites has created a privacy paradox. We freely give up personal information online while simultaneously seeking the right to control which details of our lives are collected and shared. State attorneys general, who are charged with protecting the public’s safety and shielding consumers from unfair business practices, closely follow this conversation. Like you, we find social networking sites useful and entertaining. At the same time, we share concerns with the high-tech industry and law enforcement about how to prevent criminals from moving into our online communities.

Today is Data Privacy Day, an international, collaborative effort to spotlight the importance of protecting personal information online. It’s a good reminder to all of us to consider the bytes and bits of information we send over our computers and mobile phones.

In recognition of the campaign, Facebook is reminding its users that they have control over their privacy settings, found both at the bottom of every Facebook page and in account settings. With just a few clicks, you can adjust the type of information that strangers, application developers and friends can access, as well as control the information they can share about you.

Unfortunately, sharing too much or the wrong kind of information online can make consumers vulnerable to scam artists, thieves and sexual predators. Resources such as our office’s www.WebWiseWashington.com site provide tips to help you and your family remain safe.

A recent industry study found that millions of Americans have shared their birthplace or a pet’s name on social networking sites. Those are the same details that people are often asked to provide to verify their identity when setting up bank accounts, and not information you want to share outside of your circle of friends and family.

When you post vacation updates or “check in” when you’re out and about, you’re announcing that your home is vacant. Last year, 10,000 burglars were arrested in a sting operation using FourSquare check-ins that led them into the handcuffs of waiting police. You can shrink or broaden who has access to your whereabouts, travel logs and photos through your privacy settings.

Data Privacy Day is also an appropriate time to recognize the importance of managing your online reputation. Human resources professionals have rejected job applicants based on what they found online.

Know who has access to your online communication so you can enjoy social media’s many benefits with fewer risks. Ultimately, you are your own best protector of your privacy.

 

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