Category Archives: Privacy

Privacy and your increasing Internet presence

We all worry about privacy and how much information government has on us. The risks of the government losing  disks with our id or passwords, software companies being hacked for their user data and social engineering to persuade employees to reveal all.

But how much do we inadvertently reveal online? An interesting infographic from shows that the internet knows a lot more about you than you think.  The complete infographic is here – but I’ve snipped a section to show where Facebook encourages us to share far too much.


Never put your real birthdate on Facebook or other social media sites. Vary the date of your birth by a few days either side. Adjust the year. People will not be able to get your social security number without your real birthdate.

Do not advertise that you are home alone. With all of the other data on you, it would be easy to come by your home when you are alone – or worse – when you have logged in to another place.

Watch what your children post. You might be keeping details about your home life private – but watch out for what your offspring are sharing with the world – without a secured timeline.

We look at our mobile device or our laptop like it is our cherished friend. We share things with our friends – our best friends.  Little do we realise that bit by bit our digital footprint is growing and sharing more and more about our personalities and the way we live our lives.

Eileen Brown is a social media strategist and consultant at Amastra, a columnist at ZDNet and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business.  Connect with Eileen on Twitter and  or contact her to find out how she can elevate your brand and help your business become more social.

Why I hate Internet cookies

My PC has been mis-behaving itself recently. I’ve been getting some Security Essentials warnings recently about an .html file that the software didn’t recognise. I am not aware that I have ever accessed this file and as the file was stored in my Temporary Internet Files folder, there’s a good chance it was part of an install.

The alerts were starting to become annoying. I cleaned my temp files folder (there were over 9,000 files in there) and I decided to tighten up my Internet security by tightening up my browser settings.

I felt that I was no longer in control of my PC. I hate that. I hate the way that files appear on my PC without my explicit say so. so I decided to do something about it…

imageIn Internet Explorer – the browser I use most often I went into ‘Internet Options’ and clicked on the ‘Advanced button’ in the privacy settings tab.

I ticked the dialog box to Override automatic cookie handling and set the cookie status to  the following:

I set the ‘First Party Cookies’ to Accept.

First Party Cookies are necessary on a site for you to be recognised as an individual visitor.

Blocking first party cookies makes it really hard to login to any site anywhere. Google certainly will not let you log in without accepting first party cookies.

I set the setting for ‘Third Party Cookies’ to ‘Prompt’.

I did this to see how many ad serving cookies were going to be placed onto my PC. Every time a hidden cookie tried to place itself onto my PC I would get an alert.

Each cookie belongs to a website – either the main website such as (First Party), or one of the ad server companies that serve ads within that site. These are domain names such as, and

These third party cookies monitor your browsing habits and deliver ads to you. Often they deliver the same old ads over and over again.

I then did my work as usual for the rest of the day. I logged on to sites where I usually logged on, and blocked all cookies from each site that requested it through the Privacy Alert dialog box.

Now, 24 hours later I have had 168 Alerts from different sites that wanted to put a cookie onto my machine.

That is 168 sites with domain names I have never heard of, hiding on sites that I use regularly. Hidden, perhaps malicious sites that I would normally automatically grant access to place files on to my machine.

Most of these sites serve (hopefully) relevant ads. Some of these sites, as they are not under the control of the host web site, could introduce worms and other malware onto my machine.

You can of course, totally control your privacy by blocking ALL cookies. It makes it really difficult to browse the web and access the sites you need to. You can use a totally private website such as DuckDuckGo if you are tired of Using Google Search


Or you could take the easy route and block all third party cookies from accessing your machine. After another 10 alerts as i visited another web site, I think that is going to be by far the easiest way to help keep my machine safe…

Eileen is a social media strategist and consultant at Amastra, a columnist at ZDNet and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business. Contact Eileen to find out how she can elevate your brand and help your business become more social.

Your Facebook status is not as private as you thought it was

Do you REALLY trust all your friends on your Facebook feed?  Recently Facebook has added a share link to status updates. Here’s an update I posted earlier on Facebook.

fb shares

You can see that it is really easy to share this text only post further.  Much further than you wanted it to if you have only sent the post to a limited number of friends in the first place.

From the help text these are the levels of sharing you can do:

  • Sharing with a broad audience: Use the share menu that’s located at the top of your homepage and timeline to let others know what’s on your mind. You can update your status and share photos, videos, links and other application content. Things you share will appear as posts on your timeline, and can appear in your news feed. To control whether or not specific people have the option to view your stories, you can change the privacy settings for each piece of content you post.
  • Sharing with a small group of friends: Use the Groups feature to share content with a select group of people, like family members, your soccer team or your book club.
  • Sharing with an individual: You can use the share menu at the top of a friend’s timeline to write or share something on his or her timeline. Friends of your friend will also be able to view your post. If you’d like to share something privately, you can always send someone a private message.

But sharing status updates that were never originally meant to be shared with a broader audience seems wrong. Having the ability to control whether that status update can be shared

This means that anyone who reads your Facebook status update can share it with, not only their friends, but make the status update public. Anyone else can then share this further.

The Facebook privacy page does not mention that status updates that you originally thought were just for your Facebook friends, now can be shared with anyone outside of your friends and their friends.

So be careful what you put on Facebook.  It might be reaching a much greater audience than you ever intended it to…

How to secure Facebook from Graph search

imageFacebook has introduced Graph Search and some users are concerned about what information about them will be shared outside of their Facebook friends.  With Facebook Graph Search you can now search across the whole of Facebook for complex queries. You might want to find single females in Leeds that like Xbox, or photos of single men near your location.

With Graph Search, you can look up anything shared with you on Facebook, and others can find stuff you’ve shared with them, including content set to Public. That means different people will see different results.

You can find all friends who live in the same town as you – or anyone that has their settings set to ‘Public’.  you can find restaurants your friends have been to.

As we all have different friends, we all will see different search results – even when searching for the same thing. Facebook will only display results according to the privacy setting you have made on your profile.

If you have customised your privacy settings to only display your information to only your friends, then you will not show up in search results from people who are not your friends.

If you are concerned about what information you are sharing with others it is easy to change your settings.

Go to your own profile and click the about link. You will see an edit button on the right of each section. Click on this and change the settings to make sure that only people see your details – if you want them to.


Your activity log manages your overall activity on Facebook. Have a look there to see what is shared with your friends, friends of friends and Public.

There are videos showing how Privacy works with Graph Search and how to remove a tag on Facebook which walks through common settings.

Make sure that only the people you want see the information you want to share – and secure your timeline to prevent anyone seeing your private photos, or posts.

That way appearing in Graph search will be as often as you want it to be

Eileen is a social business and social media strategist and consultant at Amastra, a columnist at ZDNet and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business. Contact Eileen to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.

Job seekers: 5 tips to protect your online brand

imageYou are at home. You are browsing the web looking for your next role. You are online anyway, so you turn to your social media platforms to update your status.

After all, you now have time to focus on your friends.

But beware of oversharing. You might want to maintain a certain persona online whilst being different offline.

The 2012 annual technology market survey conducted by Eurocom Worldwide shows that almost 40% of respondents’ companies check out potential employees’ profiles on social media sites.

The report also says that a candidate’s social media profile has caused them not to hire that person.

“The fact that one in five applicants disqualify themselves from an interview because of content in the social media sphere is a warning to job seekers and a true indicator of the digital reality we now live in,” said Mads Christensen, Network Director at Eurocom Worldwide.

There are some hard and fast rules for keeping the right items private.

Your Facebook Profile image is Public. Facebook says that ‘Your name, gender, username, and user ID (account number), along with your profile picture, cover photo, and networks (if you choose to add these) are available to anyone’. Make sure that the image is suitable.

Facebook Public Status updates change the default setting. If you choose Public for a post, your next post will also be Public unless you change this audience when you post.

Don’t Friend colleagues – or your boss.  70 per cent of young professionals on the Cisco Connected World tech report have friended people at their company. This could lead to disciplinary action if you share something you shouldn’t.

Keep your work and personal profiles separate. If you have two Twitter profiles, make sure you never talk about work on your personal profile. Direct any potential employers to your professional profile

Control your syndication settings. Beware of linking Facebook and Twitter together, or using a tool to update LinkedIn. Control what you post, where you post, when you post.

Try to give a positive impression on your online profile, so that when recruiters look for candidates, you are online, active and have a strong positive brand.  There is no need to stay silent if you manage your online activities carefully.

If in doubt – don’t post…

Image Credit: Alex E. Proimos


Eileen is a social business strategist, ZDNet columnist and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business. Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.

Big Brother mobile device in our pockets

File:Nokia Lumia 800.jpgFolks don’t like the idea of having their movements stalked by cameras or tracking devices – and yet we willingly carry round a device that has been tracking everything we do.

And we use that device in preference to other devices such as watches, PC’s and cameras – devices without tracking information embedded into the device.

So why are we so happy to carry around devices that are constantly monitoring us?

Information about our whereabouts can come in useful when we are trying to find our lost phones.  The Find my phone feature on the Nokia Lumia is particularly handy.

Location information can also be very useful to the police or the emergency services who can use the device data for pinpointing the location of someone who may have been injured and called for help.  Location information from mobile phones certainly helped to find the murderer of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman as the device recorded the last cell connecting to the phone.

Information about the cell log on, cell access, and the last location of the cell before the phone is switched off gives vital clues in the hunt for evidence in cases such as these.

Frictionless sharing helps us automatically let our friends and colleagues know what we have been doing.  Now frictionless data from our phones, can help advertisers give us targeted adverts and services that we should want.

Apple users were annoyed to discover that the iPhone tracked their location and that a security flaw could mean that data might get into the wrong hands. The data could be accessed without needing a court order.

And we use our phones data plan a lot:


Minutes per day

Browsing the internet


Checking social networks


Playing games


Listening to music


Making calls


Checking/writing emails


Text messaging


Watching TV/films


Reading books


Taking photographs





According to this survey from 02, we spend over 53 minutes per day either browsing, using social networks or reading and writing emails.  And we use our phones more often than other devices.  The O2 survey also shows us which devices we are turning away from:

  • Over half (54%) say they use their phones in place of an alarm clock
  • Almost half (46%) have dispensed with a watch in favour of using their smartphone
  • Two-in-five (39%) have switched to use their phone instead of a separate camera
  • Over one quarter use their phone instead of a laptop (28%)
  • One in ten have got shot of a games console in favour of their handset (11%)
  • One in twenty smartphone users have switched to use their phone in place of a TV (6%) or reading physical books (6%)

So there are good and bad reasons for having a tracking device monitoring your whereabouts and location.  We blithely accept location access from our devices – yet we complain about invasion of our privacy and intrusion. We want to keep our kids safe – and yet we want to have the privacy we need.

Is there a balance?  Can we rely on the police and emergency services to respect that our data is never shared with any third parties – unless we need  to rely on their services?

Or do we accept that in our always on, 24 x 7 state, someone is watching our every move – just in case…

Eileen is a social business strategist, ZDNet columnist and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business. Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.

Credit: Kiwi Flickr

Facebook changed your default email address without telling you

So Facebook decided which of my email addresses it was going to show on my timeline?

Facebook now shows everyone’s email address to be – not the email address that you chose to display on your profile.

I’d prefer to choose my own email address thank you Facebook.  It is a simple matter to get it back however so that Facebook displays the email address you want – not the email address Facebook wants you to display.

1: Click on your username and click on the about link..


2: Scroll down the the Contact info area and click on the edit button.  You will see a list of your email addresses.


3: Select the email address that you want Facebook to display.  Select the arrow to the right of the name and click the ‘show on Timeline’ option. Select the address and select ‘hide from timeline’.


4: Click on the save button at the bottom of the dialog box..

Now everything is back to the way you want it… Smile

Eileen is a social business strategist, ZDNet columnist and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business. Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.

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Frictionless sharing and the implications of ‘Intellectual Privacy’

imageIf you have ever been slightly disturbed by sharing information about your location, the movies you watch and the books you read, take care with what you write. 

Frictionless sharing will share information about your activities amongst your Facebook friends without you even knowing that it is happening.

But if we are subconsciously sharing something that we might not want to share, should this give us cause for concern? 

I recently unfriended a friend on Facebook to show her what total strangers could see about her activities. 

She was worried that one of her ex-partners knew way too much about her. It was disturbing her.

This ex had even called one of my friends connections to shout and rage about a comment that the connection had posted on my friend’s Facebook feed. 

This was an invasion of her privacy and needed to be addressed by removing everything from her public timeline and setting strong default settings. Now she can relax.

Frictionless sharing, whilst different to privacy gives rise to similar feelings. But is frictionless sharing healthy or are we peeking into private lives

The Kurzweil blog talks about intellectual privacy – the ability to think for ourselves.  If our friends know what we read then the fear of being judged for the things we read and watch might stop us from being inquisitive and curious about the world we live in.

Perhaps we should share in a better way. According to Neil Richards in his paper ‘The Perils of Social Reading’ we are setting a worrying precedent for the future.

Thinking about our social sharing activities, the paper says:

Social reading takes us a step further. Not only are our friends with us when we watch movies at the cinema, but they’re now there when we watch movies on our computers, and also when we read on our computers. They never leave.

An always-on regime of “frictionless sharing” means we are always at the movies with our friends, even when we don’t want to be.

It means we’ll always watch the movie they choose, and we won’t choose the movie we want to see if they’d make fun of us for it. We might never get to see that film we’re curious but shy about.

This is the case whether our film is fluffy like “Gnomeo and Juliet,” political like “Bowling for Columbine,” racy like “Black Swan,” or something even more explicit.

If we’re always with our friends, we’re never alone, and we never get to explore ideas for ourselves. Of course, the stakes here go beyond movies, to reading, web-surfing, and even thinking.

Inadvertent disclosure of something that we might not want to share will cause us friction in making efforts to ensure that our information is not broadcast without our consent. The app is broadcasting information without our explicit consent.  Is this undermining our right to privacy?

Millennials might scoff at our need to keep things private.  They were born into an age of sharing everything they do with their friends.

But as job offers get withdrawn due to embarrassing Facebook posts and authorities question your choices of name and hobbies, it becomes good to have your own head space.

Having our own private space will slow down the prophetic scenario forecast by George Orwell in his Book, 1984 and give us somewhere to be our real selves

Eileen is a social business strategist, ZDNet columnist and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business. Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.

Credit: katerha


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Are we the same person online and offline?

Heck no.


I craft my online words to create an impression of me that I want you to see.  I want you to believe that I truly am the person in my tweets, my blog posts, my Facebook and LinkedIn profile.  But is is the real me?

I’m sure I’m a much nicer person online than I am offline.  I’m always cheerful online, helpful, friendly and kind.  I try to write warm witty and wise blog posts – with the emphasis on the warm.  I don’t want you to know when I’m having a bad day.

I don’t want you to know when I’m feeling vulnerable, scared, sad, lonely, insecure or down.  I want you to see ability,  stability, confidence, employability, hireability.

But is it healthy?

Forbes splits this ‘split personality’ behaviour straight down the middle.  Some women are truly authentic online,  such as Penelope Trunk who pours out her life on her blog.   Others are less authentic online. I probably fall into this camp.  I try to use Paretos 80:20 rule for my online activities.  I’m 80% authentic – keeping the 20% for face to face conversations with offline friends.

Some keep their professional lives totally separate from their personal musings on Facebook.  One of my good friends uses Facebook entirely for the business connections it brings her.  She knows she needs to have a Facebook profile, but she doesn’t update it at all, and yet she has thousands of Facebook Friends.

Some use Facebook to keep in touch with colleagues, some with close friends and family.  I’m still connected to lots of my ex Microsoft colleagues on Facebook.  some are friends, some mere acquaintances.  I mix my Facebook conversation from professional to personal musings.  My Facebook Page however, gets only the business relatedor book related updates. My Facebook profile gets the more honest updates.

But event these updates aren’t truly ‘authentic’

The updates are a nicer, better version of me  — the me, I’d like you to see.  The me, perhaps I’d truly like to be.

But are we sharing too much?

Perhaps we don’t want to know what our friends are reading using the frictionless sharing feature on Facebook.  Are we oversharing or peeking into private lives?  Some people think that they are chatting to just one friend when they post updates on Facebook and are not careful what they post.

Perhaps I’ll stick to outpourings of angst, anger and ire when I’m offline.  Where no one can hear my miserable ranting, emotional outbursts and weeping.

Would it make me a better person online if I shared more? Or would reading these ramblings only serve to reduce your opinion of me – or anyone else that overshares their life?

Eileen is a social business strategist, ZDNet columnist and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business. Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.

Image credit: misteraitch


Oops. Be very careful what you post on Facebook

Oh dear.  I’m convinced that people think that they are talking to their best friends when they chat on Facebook.  They forget that some of their ‘friends’ have screen grab software such as the Snipping tool, to take a screenshot of their foolishness.

And people just can’t be that dumb can they??

The Buzzfeed important lessons learned post has some howlers – and there’s more from the Failblog….  



Oops.  Things are never as secure as you think they are.  Facebook is NOT private.  just don’t say anything that you don’t want to have quoted back to you in a court of law…


Eileen is a social business strategist, ZDNet columnist and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business. Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.


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