10 juin 2010

Don't give away private info

Facebook has received lots of heat lately for its privacy policy -- termed "anti-privacy" by the critics. It seems that since this social networking site was launched, it has consistently allowed more and more access to users' personal information, principally to benefit advertisers targeting specific likes and interests.

The latest outcry has resulted in Facebook re-simplifying its privacy policy, which originally was one sentence that said no users' data would be shared with anyone who wasn't in a member's group. Facebook also is making privacy settings more obvious and easier to use.

But, writes Daniel Lyons of Newsweek, "If you expect this company to become suddenly trustworthy, you're crazy. . . You are not Facebook's customer. You are its inventory -- you are the product Facebook is selling. Facebook's real customers are advertisers. You're useful only because you can be packaged and sold."

I'm not here to bash Facebook. Lots of others, like Lyons, are taking care of that. In fact, I'm not even one of Facebook's 500 million members.

Online privacy protection, however, doesn't begin and end with Facebook or the other social networking websites. It can be an issue anytime you're putting personal information on the web -- even when innocuously uploading your daily ride data on sites such as the popular Garmin Connect.

In a recent RBR poll, 14% of respondents said they upload rides. The risk of putting personal cycling data on websites was brought home for roadies in an e-mail RBR received from Mark Croonen of Australia.

"I discovered that Garmin Connect has a little flaw in their service," Mark writes. "It can expose where you live, what time you leave the house and how long you will be out."

The implication is that a bad guy could use the information to burglarize your home while you're out on a ride. Mark writes about the threat in his blog.

"When you upload your ride data, by default Garmin Connect shares it with the world unless you specifically change the privacy settings," Mark explains. "The average user won't give this a second thought and will leave the settings on public access."

His blog provides screen shots to show how the homes of Garmin Connect users can be pinpointed, along with the time of day they usually ride and how long their rides take.

This isn't a red flag only for Garmin Connect users.

RBR contributor Fred Zahradnik, the GPS guru for About.com, weighed in with this observation:

"Privacy can be an issue with all of the many online ride-logging services. People should check their settings, review what they have in the public domain, and change their settings and defaults to 'private' if they are concerned.

"I haven't heard of a crook taking advantage of this type of site, and I don't think that profilers frequent cycling logs, but you don't want to give away this type of private info."

Dr. Z uses Garmin Connect and has made sure that none of his rides can be viewed by the public unless he specifically unlocks them. "I do not share rides that begin or end from my home," he says.

Concerned Garmin Connect users can tighten privacy for rides already uploaded. Here's how, according to Dr. Z:

"Go to 'activities" from the top 'myconnect' menu, then select the 'quick edit' option. A small padlock icon will appear next to every ride. Simply click on these padlocks to set rides for public or non-public view.

"To default to having future uploaded rides be private unless you unlock them, go to 'settings' and click on 'default privacy.'"

Like with Facebook, the moral is to not post personal information publicly without considering how it may be used by others. That's the world we live in.

No matter which web-based ride log you use, find the privacy settings and consider clicking them.

Ed Pavelka
Editor, Publisher, Privacy Protector

Comment :
P.S. So what's a paranoid ride logger to do? Easy -- instead of posting to a website, use a computer-based software program. For users of Garmin cyclecomputers there's the free Garmin Training Center. It's not full featured, but it captures most vital ride data and produces nice graphs for analysis -- and keeps them on your machine instead of on the worldwide web.

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