Sharing Your House Keys With Strangers

Your Facebook friend posts a seemingly harmless request:

Let’s see how well we know each other. Answer the following questions about yourself then share it with your friends. My answers are below. No fair posting and not sharing!

  1. Where did you go to high school?
  2. What was your first car?
  3. Who are your grandparents?
  4. Who was your first teacher?

Maybe you have participated in such a list. Look back at the small list I made. Does anything look familiar? If I know your high school I can also find the mascot. If I know your grandparents, I can probably determine which are your mom’s parents.

Why is that important? The security questions to confirm your identity with your bank, credit card issuer, health provider, financial website, email service, and security websites include information such as mother’s maiden name, birthplace, high school mascot, first car, and favorite band. Knowing the answer to these questions allow access when you forgot your password or make account changes.

Once you’ve made this information publicly available don’t think that it is only your friends who have access. Bad actors create profiles they can use to impersonate you, access your information, or other purposes. So be discreet with what you share on the Internet (or your children share about you) and err on the side of privacy.

Sharing tracking information

Forbes had a recent article on a story that made national media about fitness tracker data shared on a social media app for athletes that provided outlines of military bases, embassies, patrol routes, and even routes between possible intelligence facilities and non-declared bases. (Article link) Military personnel, contractors, and others wearing fitness trackers that was shared, in this case with Strava, was collected and “heat maps” of popular routes of its users. In similar apps, the data may not be for public view but the company’s possession of aggregate data could be used in nefarious ways. Also, “anonymous” data might be identifiable using other techniques which provides additional concern.

Many work locations prohibit tracking devices, Apple/Android watches, and other information into their facilities. Be aware of any security restrictions if you use these devices. Also, think about how the information you are sharing might be used against you. In the early years of Facebook, there were reports of people’s houses being robbed while they were on vacation because thieves, seeing real-time vacation postings, knew the houses were empty. Regular check-in’s on apps allow others to know your routines and location-based services can also disclose your location by your phone’s location.

Be smart about what you share

We may have reasons for allowing these services and each must do a personal evaluation and risk assessment to determine what is valuable enough to share private data and what should be protected. Having considered this, periodically check the privacy settings and sharing data in your social media accounts, smart phone, and apps. You may want to restrict settings and should delete any application sharing that is not longer useful (such as allowing Facebook to access a web site or app that you no longer use).

Most importantly, ask why you are sharing the info. Are you satisfying your ego? Do you really think it is so interesting that the world must know? Maybe you think you are just having fun with friends but remember, enemies may be more interested in some of this information than your friends will ever be.



Why do people listen to pundits?

Why do people listen to pundits?

I enjoy sports talk radio but I don’t take it too seriously and usually tune out when they start predictions. Before the football season, the “experts” talked incessantly about who would have great seasons, what athletes and coaches would have success, and what teams would suffer. As the season rolled on their predictions proved incredibly wrong, and they do every year. However, no one loses their job and they begin the prediction process again with callers eagerly joining in with their insights. I enjoy much of the banter but I don’t put much stock in prognostication.

Fortune teller

The 2016 US election political experts were hilariously wrong. They laughed at the thought of Donald Trump running for president and dismissed his chances of winning the Republican nomination in a crowded field of diverse and qualified candidates. When he won the nomination they wrote off the Republican party saying that there were great divisions within that threatened to rip the GOP apart. During the campaign, the pundits provided advice for how Trump should run his campaign and marvelled at how he was doing it wrong. As they polished the crown for Hillary Clinton on election night, they began eulogizing the Trump campaign and lauding the historic nature of Clinton becoming the first woman president…until Donald Trump was announced as the winner of the 2016 election. Never has the press been so wrong from the very start and, had Trump followed the advice of the press, he certainly would have lost. Good thing, for his sake, he didn’t listen to the “experts” in the press.

I laughed to myself on my way into the gym several days as the TVs were continuing the coverage by these same pundits on how President-elect Trump was going to administer the country and what he should do. To my knowledge none of these people lost their jobs because they were clueless about the election and the electorate. Yet people will continue to listen to these pundits spout meaningless babble for the 24-hour cycle when they have proved that they are out of touch with the very area in which they proclaim to have expertise.

Years ago I heard someone describe modern media as “reporters interviewing reporters.” I never realized that the radio and television news and talk shows were exactly this. Having aspired to journalism when I was in school, a dream I abandoned, I envisioned a life chasing the story, interviewing and cross-examining people, pouring through data, and digesting the data for publication with tight insightful prose. But many prominent “journalists” are just news celebrities and brands that have to say outlandish things to get hits, views, and invitations to shows that want to create a bar fight on screen. I believe there are journalists true to the calling who cannot be bought and want the truth regardless of whether it is left or right, but I fear they are a minority today and do not have the audience enjoyed by the male and female spokesmodels and fame seekers. Of course, we asked for this by what we pay for with our attention and mouse clicks.

If anything, I hope the 2016 election (and football season) has given us a reality-check regarding our news sources and experts with a healthy dose of skepticism for what they say, and say, and say.


Book Review: Trust Me I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator

Trust Me, I'm Lying: Confessions of a Media ManipulatorTrust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator by Ryan Holiday

Ryan Holiday exposes the ease with which online news organizations and blogs can be easily manipulated, based on his experience using the system to promote his projects, clients, and American Apparel. He provides great insight into the blurring of the lines between blogging and journalism and how the twin factors of add revenue based on screen views and the desire to break a story first create the perfect storm of rumors as news and sensationalist stories appealing to fear, anger, or scandal. When you finish the book you truly will see news and blogging in a different light and how a “follow the money” approach explains so much of what we see. His information on iterative journalism explains how organizations publish rumor but do an ineffective job of “getting the story right” but make profit on the incorrect story and the updates to correct it. Not content to just discuss methods and practices, he dissects real news events and promotional efforts to demonstrate how the monster feeds and operates. His insight into the major web hubs for news and individuals, from Huffington to Breitbart, will provide some much needed perspective on how we get our news and whether we really are informed.

He presents the material as exposing media manipulation techniques but one could follow the process and have a good chance at promotional success but at a cost. I was put off on some of his initial YouTube interviews as he seemed like a person confessing sins that he is proud of committing. His later books reveal one who has learned and matured from this dark place to a more settled view of the world and a better ethical approach to life. Finish this book and you’ll never view blogs and online news the same again.

Purchase from Amazon (affiliate link)

5 Things That Happened When I Quit Personal Social Media

5 Things That Happened When I Quit Personal Social Media

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Google+. I had them all and was very active. I had hundreds of Facebook friends from many places I’ve lived or other interactions. I built Facebook pages, one with over 1,000 followers and growing.

Last spring I quit all but Twitter and over the summer I dumped it as well. It started in January when I started logging in less, took the apps off of my iPhone, and drifted away. In the spring, I just deleted the accounts. They said my accounts would be inactive but I went nuclear and immediately and irrevocably killed them.

The reaction

Want to have fun with your friends? Casually mention at a gathering that you have quit social media. Log the answers. I didn’t make a big deal about it, post a set of theses on a church door, clink dinner glasses, or any type of announcement. When someone would ask if I saw something on Facebook I’d have to confess.

Was I making a statement? What made me mad? Did I know I could use filters and lists to manage the flow? Was it consuming my time to the point I had health and hygiene issues? Did I not care what was going on in other people’s lives? Was I going off the grid? Did I need a psychiatrist? Was I depressed? I had many questions about my digicide.

Yes I knew (and wrote about) lists, used tools to manage Twitter, and didn’t feel overwhelmed or that I was wasting time. My mental state is a completely different matter for another post. I just quit. I had other ways to stay inTelevision and internet production technology concept touch with close friends and family and was content with learning the events of other people’s lives in less than real time. I did not fear missing out and still managed to catch the big news. It was similar to how I used to enjoy playing golf, until I didn’t. I didn’t dislike social media (or golf), and I might get back in. I just don’t do it anymore. But I’ve learned some things in the process.

The five

  1. People become very apologetic and start justifying their social media use when you say you’ve quit. By far the funniest thing is to tell someone you’ve quit Facebook and hear them sheepishly say that they really don’t care much for it either and, were it not for distant friends or family on it, they’d quit too. Or they might defend that there is a lot of foolish mess and drama but some good on it. On one occasion I had to stop someone, telling them that I didn’t say I disliked it, I just wasn’t on it anymore. Had I known this would happen I might have quit earlier for pure entertainment purposes.
  2. You have funny or profound thoughts that you can only share with people physically around you, or the dog. Twitter and Facebook were great outlets for sharing thoughts with the world. Quit them, have a funny observation, then realize you have few people to share it with (our Yorkie has a great sense of humor). You know this thought would be liked and probably shared but you have to enjoy it yourself or share it with a small audience, some who groan and roll their eyes. It’s almost not worth thinking anymore. Yet, less than 10 years ago we had thoughts and opinions we could not share with our audience because we didn’t have one. And we were ok with that.
  3. You can’t humblebrag effectively without social media. I was asked to speak at a prestigious event, received recognition at work, participated in a charitable event, and otherwise honored. Can I fully enjoy the moment if I can’t post about it? I’ve missed the opportunity to say things like “I’m honored and humbled to be asked to introduce this year’s award winner”, “I can’t believe I’m going to lead this new project” or “It was a privilege to work with the People Who Don’t Read So Good fund drive today.” When you say such things in person it sounds more like, well,  bragging. People begin to think you’re ordinary when you can’t tell them how great, I mean humbly blessed, you are.
  4. You have to enjoy experiences alone or share them with friends and family using archaic technology like conversations and texting. You had dinner at that popular place or one that would demonstrate what a taste maker you are. You went on vacation, to a sporting event, out with friends, or on a business trip to a cool city and stayed in an upscale hotel. But you quit social media and have no way to share the experience,  that is, throw it in the face of the poor suckers back home in their cubicle farms and boring cramped apartments. Without social media you must enjoy the meal or experience yourself, soak it in, and let the time go by without chronicling, selfies, or shares. I might take pictures for my own fading memory or to share with my family. Sadly, acquaintances and friends will be denied an enchanting vicarious trip on this adventurous journey I call my life.
  5. It limits the ways I can tell my wife I love her. With social media, on my wife’s birthday, our anniversary, Mother’s Day, and Valentines Day, from my bed I could type a thoughtful message about how much I love my wife, how great she is, list her achievements, and praise her love for me, include a mushy picture, tag her, then post the message. The post would leave my phone via wifi to the router, travel to the ISP, go to Facebook servers, post, send a notification back through the worldwide internet, to my ISP, to my router, then via wifi to my wife’s phone on her side of the bed so she could read of my love and admiration. In the old days I would have to look over from my pillow to hers and express my love but our friends, family, acquaintances, coworkers, church family, band boosters, kids friends parents, kids teachers, and stalkers wouldn’t have the privilege of hearing it. Her self esteem is holding up well despite my inability to tell others I love her and compare the “I love my wife”post like totals to other husband’s posts about their wives.

I may rejoin personal social media tomorrow or never go back. I do miss some things. I don’t recommend anyone leave social media nor would I discourage anyone from pulling the plug. If you are wrestling with the choice remember, we can live with it and lived most of our lives without it.

Update: As of December I have opened Facebook to stay connected to so many friends and family, especially those far away, for business,  and to connect with to some services without having to create an account. I can’t wait to see what everyone is having for dinner! 

If you liked this, please share it on Facebook or Twitter!**

*I am on LinkedIn but it is a professional social media site though some fail to get the professional part when posting. Do I seriously need another math problem on my wall?!?

**That’s a joke, called irony. Couldn’t resist.