Connected: Understand why you're putting data on websites

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"Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can't see where it keeps its brain," said Mr. Weasley to his daughter, Ginny, in J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets."

Yet, in the computer business it's about trust. We're putting our lives online and, in many cases, expecting the people with whom we entrust this data to take care of it. Time after time, we find that the people on the other end are not trustworthy.

Yet we blame the machines.

The Federal Trade Commission seems to be rolling over for the big operators who have billions of dollars to fight them in court and out. On Aug. 10, the FTC completed a settlement with Facebook over whether the social network had violated its privacy policy -- but didn't get the company to admit wrongdoing. The commission also settled with Google for $22.5 million on allegations that the company misrepresented how it was collecting data from people who use Apple computers. It's the biggest settlement ever by the FTC -- but the amount is only noise level next to the $43 billion that Google had as of the end of the second quarter.

No wonder consumers have a hard time trusting smaller companies -- because the larger companies are taking them for the fools.

The key is vigilance.

Vigilance means understand why you're putting data in and what is expected to happen after you do.

I don't give my personal data to any website that doesn't clearly show who the company's executives are. I get genuinely angry at those who, when sending out email to lots of other people, put my name or email address in the To or Cc field for all their friends to see. I don't want my email address to be shared like that.

When I want to go public, I'll tweet it or get on the radio or say it in this column. Don't read our faces, nor scan our homes with a camera. Let us decide how to share our lives.

interact

Follow David Radin on Twitter @dradin, or learn more at www.megabyteminute.com.


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