Privacy Policies

Posted by Paige on August 6, 2018 in ISTE Cert, Technology |

As part of my ISTE Certification, I had the opportunity to explore various options related to Digital Citizenship (one of the seven ISTE Standards for students). One of the options I chose was to review the privacy policies of a few of the websites I use.

The number one resource in my tech toolbelt is Google, so that was an obvious place to start. Next, while I don’t use Facebook I know there has been a lot of controversy surrounding the site so I decided to see what that was all about. My recent professional goal is to be less of a passive participant with my Twitter PLN (@LahaisePaige) and be more actively engaged. Since I have been using this application much more frequently I decided that it might be helpful to know their policies; so the final site I reviewed was Twitter.

How many of you have ever actually read a privacy policy? I supposed I should have taken heed when I saw the South Park HumancentiPad episode in 2011, but like most everyone else I just merrily click “I agree” without weighing the ramifications. And, if this 2017 study is to be believed, a whopping 97% of people do the same thing. Honestly, I just assume every site, app, etc. has full rights to everything about me, including the option to take possession of my firstborn. Truthfully, what I found wasn’t all that shocking and for the most part, lived up to my predictions (except the giving up my firstborn).

One shocking bit of information I read came from Twitter’s policy which states they retain “Log Data” about you, even if you DO NOT create an account. This data “includes information such as your IP address, browser type, operating system, the referring web page, pages visited, location, your mobile carrier, device information (including device and application IDs), search terms, and cookie information.” So simply by visiting the Twitter profile of someone else the company has some pretty powerful information about you. And while you can create a profile using a pseudonym (something that is allowed-see the first check), they will still retain all of this information in their Log Data.

Twitter also tracks you no matter what device you are using: “we may also associate your account with browsers or devices other than those you use to log into Twitter (or associate your logged-out device or browser with other browsers or devices). We do this to operate and personalize our services. For example, if you visit websites with sports content on your laptop, we may show you sports-related ads on Twitter for Android.”

I think what was most surprising in my research related to the “shadow profile” controversy surrounding Facebook. Because I don’t use Facebook I guess I don’t pay as much attention to their news as I should, so when a colleague told me about this I was rather shocked. I laughed and said decided to scour their privacy policy with a “fine-tooth comb”, certain I would find something that would allude to this as being acceptable under their terms. Of course I wasn’t able to find verbiage to support this disturbing practice, however, I did find Facebook’s policy to be the least user-friendly of the three. Meaning, it might be there in legal speak and I just overlooked it.

Google’s Privacy Policy was the most comprehensive and the easiest to understand. They have really done a good job letting their customers know what to expect in regards to data they can use and how you can adjust that in your settings. At first when I read: “Google also collects information about you from publicly accessible sources. For example, if your name appears in your local newspaper, Google’s Search engine may index that article and display it to other people if they search for your name” my thought was “Wow, that’s pretty far-reaching”. However, as I look at it again the practice makes sense. I mean, how else would you be able to stalk someone on the Internet? 😜

So what’s the bottom line with all of this? Money! My conclusion is that it’s all about the ads. All three companies are money making machines and what better way to make money than to target their ads. Gone are the good ol’ days of waiting for Neilson to provide marketers with information, it’s now much more instantaneous and focused. What you read, Tweet, search for, like, respond to, etc., are all used to better target ads for your “personal enjoyment”. Hmmm, no wonder we have become a society of materialism. So the next time you automatically click “agree” to that apps privacy policy I would encourage you to take a few minutes and actually read what you are agreeing to; you never know, it just might be your first born!

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