Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Privacy & Social Media - Q&A with Privacy Solutions' Chief Privacy Guru™ Darity Wesley

Have you considered what your “proprietary information” is in the world – especially in the world of social media and social networking? Whether you are an individual, a business, or a brand, you do indeed have proprietary information that is valuable and worthy of protection. Every business understands the importance of maintaining the sanctity of intellectual property, brand reputation, company image, and law & regulation adherence. Every individual is aware of the need to value the privacy of their social security number and financial accounts information to protect themselves from identity theft and fraud. Have you defined specifically what you consider your proprietary information? As an individual, is your proprietary information your age, home address, children’s names, family photos, religion, political views, social interests, or other data? Whether an individual or a business, do you consider privacy of your proprietary information in your online presence with thought and purpose?

I have worked in the information industry most of my career in business development, marketing, and operational executive positions. I know the huge amount of thought and money that goes into keeping proprietary information private for a company that collects, cleanses, and runs data through proprietary software and processes to produce an information industry product. I have done consulting projects focusing solely on data security for these businesses. Protecting valuable and proprietary information is serious business in the business world. Is it a serious consideration in your personal world?

With more and more companies moving to the Internet to market and deliver products, and with more and more individuals joining social media networks, it got me pondering, how many people really consider “privacy” in their online actions and presence? It also had me considering what are the best practices to define and maintain privacy boundaries with social media networking? What are the threats to people and businesses if privacy is not a realization in social media? I am fortunate to have a colleague who is one of the best privacy experts in the country – Darity Wesley. She is no newcomer to the subject having considered and worked with privacy issues for over 20 years starting in the public record and real estate data industry before the delivery of data via the Internet. She then moved seamlessly into the delivery of data via the Internet and social media several years ago. Darity is a true expert and is sought out by numerous leaders in the business world. She is also fun to work with and works with a real-world view.

Darity Wesley is the Founder and Chief Privacy Guru™ of Privacy Solutions, Incorporated. She is a nationally known expert and speaker on privacy and information security issues as well as software, technology, data licensing, and social media. Darity brings an inspiring integrated approach to the business world incorporating cutting edge best business practices to every client interaction. She is a privacy champion whose mission is to protect the lifeblood of business and the free flow of data. Darity executes this mission by helping government, companies, and trade associations manage the risks associated with the protection of the valuable data they have gathered and of which they are custodians. She has created the information industry breakthrough Website Risk Analysis™.

Brenda: What is your definition of “Privacy” as it relates to social media?
Darity: Privacy as such is not a well-defined term, but it deals with control of personal events, freedom from intrusion and control of information. With regard to social media, paying attention to your “privacy” has to do with staying aware and alert as to how you craft yourself in the online world and how much information you volunteer to the world at large.
Brenda: Can privacy and social media coexist?
Darity: Of course, however, the social media revolution has helped evolve our definition of privacy and put it into our hands as well as those of the media providers.
Brenda: What are the top three threats to privacy in social media?
Darity: In some ways, we are our own worst enemies to our privacy! Information we volunteer about ourselves that can lead to identity fraud, like our complete birth dates is one; collection of information for behavioral marketing purposes is another; and third is someone stealing your intellectual property- like blog entries or photos and using them without your permission. Here’s a business one, company culture and possibly secrets and confidential information being divulged.
Brenda: What are the easiest and fastest solutions for these threats?
Darity: 1- Think before you post. Anything you post on the Internet is available to anyone anywhere forever and can come back to haunt you. You should have no expectation of privacy with regard to postings and the courts have held this to be the case. Don’t give out specific personally identifiable information about you like your precise birth date and place. 2- Opt out of situations where a vendor asks if they can share your information with others. Just don’t do it or understand that all your information and possibly those of all the people you know may be jeopardized 3- Use the proper intellectual property protection measures like making sure your copyright notice is on all of your work.
Brenda: What are the most effective solutions for these threats?
Darity: For a business, have your website checked for legal risk. We offer a free quick check. Have Social Media policies in place as to what a person may or may not say about the company and its activities. Know about the privacy settings and what is available on all social networking sites and use them if you have concerns.
Brenda: Who is the most vulnerable to a privacy threat in social media?
Darity: Most vulnerable are people under 40 who have been with social media since the beginning and are in the habit of revealing a lot of personal information without understanding the potential threats.
Brenda: What is the most impactful consequence of privacy violations in social media?
Darity: Identity theft, reputation issues and defamation
Brenda: How best can a person protect their privacy?
Darity: Be aware and alert at all times of what information you volunteer, to whom and for what purpose.
Brenda: How best can a company protect their privacy?
Darity: Have a comprehensive social media policy in place (it’s as important as the advent of the sexual harassment policies of the 90s) and enforce it. Make sure you have Terms of Use on your websites, and make sure you have privacy policies and disclaimers in your websites and postings. There are many more issues depending on the type of company, what you do, how you do it, and what you need protected.
Brenda: What are the types of privacy services offered by your company to clients that come to you for expertise and help?
Darity: We provide a wide variety of services, from Social Media Policies, Website Legal Risk Analysis™ and other necessary policies, procedures to the appropriate legal contracts, rules and regulations and corporate governing documents which include these kinds of protections that are needed to protect a business and its customers.
Brenda: Darity can be contacted at http://www.privacygurus.com or Darity@privacygurus.com

Privacy importance, considerations, and understanding have ramifications for individuals as well as businesses with what can become far reaching positive and negative affects that remain in the online realm for years if not forever. As an individual or a company, you can choose to understand the impact of your online presence before you perhaps have to deal with a problem later. In the defining and maintenance of your privacy online, you will certainly be your own best friend or your own worst enemy by the choices you make now on privacy settings and what you post for individuals or privacy policies and guidelines you define as a business. Whether you are a high name recognition business or you are a college student; whether you are just having fun with a social network or launching a corporate online marketing campaign, you can maximize or minimize your privacy’s importance simply by making it a standard consideration in your online habits. What you define as your proprietary information and how you treat this information by setting boundaries and standards around it are the most powerful influences on how your privacy will be preserved online, especially in a social media context.

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