We see you when you're sleeping. We know when you're awake.Little disclosures can add up to big exposures

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Surveillance cameras

Social media culture is all about transparency: tell the world about your last meal, your current location, your relationships, your likes and dislikes, your hopes and dreams. (So far, to the best of my knowledge, there's no social network devoted to sharing recent digestive updates. No, I'm not going to go Googling for it.)

But at least you're conscious of what information you're choosing to share and with whom... right?

Maybe not. One of the things they tell soldiers in case of capture is to tell the enemy nothing - not even the smallest piece of information. An opposing force could stitch together those small pieces of information into a much bigger and more damaging revelation.

In much the same way, the tiny little personal disclosures we make in our various apps can add up to a surprising degree of exposure. Case in point: "When do they sleep?", a site that analyzes the timestamps in anyone's public Twitter stream, and calculates the likely times when they're asleep.

Maybe you don't feel that protective of the privacy of your sleep pattern data. Fair enough. How about thieves knowing when you are and aren't at home?

Please Rob Me used people's check-ins on Foursquare to figure out when they were away from their homes... and depicted that, tongue in cheek, as a good time for burglars to check into those empty houses. (The creators have since shuttered the site, saying their work in raising awareness has been done.)

I've written a few times about the way online participation creates a data mine, requiring only a little digital refining to turn into a solid-gold dossier on our personal lives. And while I'm not one of the folks screaming that privacy is dead, or recommending that you never ever participate in social media, I will say this: bring some intention and awareness to your online activity. And when you ask yourself about revealing a little piece of information, be sure to think about the bigger picture it could help to build.


CT Smith says

April 23, 2010 - 1:19pm

Three cheers Rob. Your digital wisdom is spot on, i hope others have read your post.

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