February 3, 2010

Are Pirates Plundering Your On-line Personal Information?

It used to be that you only had to worry about petty thieves combing your on-line presence for sensitive information. Now professional plunderers are getting into the act, and lenders may be poking around. Who is looking at your tweets and Facebook friend choices, and what are they doing with this information?

How lenders and collection agencies use your social networking information has been in the news recently, making one think about how our on-line information can be misused. The pirates are on the horizon, and they want your information and your doubloons.

These purveyors of legal loansharking are sailing a sea of data provided by us, sometimes unwittingly. They are looking to gain a profitable advantage, whether by tailor-making advertising just for you, or by providing information about you and your choices to someone who wants something from you. I am not alright with either one of these uses of my data.

What exactly are they looking for in this piratical cruise through your on-line life? Writing about frugality and cutting up credit cards, using cash only for all purchases, or closing your bank account and burying your treasure? If so, I can kiss my credit card goodbye. Good riddance, I say.

Those sailing under the Jolly Roger, international flag of pirates, do not have anything I want - I do not agree to their outrageous terms. In the moonlight you can see they are the walking dead, and they don't even adhere to the Pirate Code. Credit card interest rates of up to 20% is an obvious unfair distribution of booty, for example, which contravenes the code of proper plunderers.

The good news is that we do have some control over how our personal information is shared on social networking sites. If you are a member of one or more, now is a good time to check your profile and settings to ensure you are getting the privacy you are comfortable with and deserve.

You can choose to say no to web sites that refuse to protect your information to your satisfaction. We can also choose to say no to those who wish to engage us in debt slavery aboard the Royal Fortune (Black Bart's ship). I would rather walk the plank and take my chance with the real sharks.

And if you do bury your doubloons in a treasure chest (or coffee tin) in the back yard, 30 paces from the oak tree, remember to draw a map.

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