Tag Archives: privacy

Facebook Graph Search explained – will you use it?

Facebook Graph Search Ever try to search for something on Facebook and turn up with nothing? We provide so much information to the social media site, but it’s hard to get access to all that information in a way we can use. Facebook is trying to change the way we search for information by introducing Graph Search.

The name of the new search function seems a bit too technical for me. It appears to explain what’s happening behind the scenes with all the information you share. Look beyond the name, because there is some useful functionality to this search option that will eventually appear on the top of pages. Currently, it’s only in beta form as the social media powerhouse works on the bugs to this new tool.

The new search function will allow you to search for people in a whole new way. The first part of the roll-out will focus on your connections to people, photos, places and interests. For example, you can find people from your hometown who like hiking or have been to a certain place, photos of a certain location, restaurants in a town, tourist attractions in a country visited by your friends, or music your friends like. The search results will be based on the information others provide.

It’s a way to connect with new people based on your interests or find out who might be a good source of information for a city or restaurant you might be thinking about visiting. Want to find a good Chinese food in a new city? This new search bar may provide you some useful suggestions and even maybe some reviews from friends. Need someone to bike with that lives near you? Try Facebook’s new search tool once it’s rolled out.

My profile on Graph Search results

My profile on Graph Search results

This will only be as good as the information feeding it, or the information you feed into it. Based on the example I saw, most of the information is pulled from your “about” section and the pages you like. Here’s how my work profile appears in a the Graph Search tool. It contains mostly by bio information and the number of friends in common with the person searching.

It’s a way for you to search all the information people share about themselves and interests on Facebook. Currently it is a little tricky to search for specific people with interests and likes on Facebook. It will be much easier to find information people posted in the past rather than scrolling through their Timeline to find the content you are looking for. It will also be easier for you to see what you have in common with others.

This new search function brings up the issue of privacy once again. You need to be careful what you share on Facebook, as so much of it is searchable. Spend some time exploring the Facebook privacy settings so you know exactly what is private and what is not. Of course, some of it you can’t control as it depends on what your friends share about you as well. If you’re tagged in a photo you don’t want to be tagged in, delete the tag. Be proactive about your privacy. Don’t let others control it.

Facebook said it will honor the privacy settings of individuals so search results for the Graph Search will vary based on the settings you choose. “You can look up anything shared with you on Facebook, and others can find stuff you’ve shared with them, including content set to Public,” Facebook said.

I think it might be hard to figure out how to use this new search tool at first, and of course there will always be those who complain about all the changes. The good thing with this change — if you don’t like it don’t use it. It’s doesn’t appear as though your entire profile page will change much like we saw with the Timeline changes. Just understand your information that you input on this free site will be searchable now and used by others in a whole new way. Perhaps ways you can’t even imagine at this time. Be careful what you share if you’re worried about privacy.

What do you think about the new tool? Will you use it once it’s rolled out to everyone? Click comment below to join the conversation.

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Free access to your credit score?

You have a right to your credit report every year for free, but not your credit score. This confuses a lot of consumers who don’t really understand why you get one and not the other. What’s the difference? It’s all personal information about you. Now, Consumers Union is leading the charge to give you access to your score as well as your report.

Your credit score is the number most people associate with their credit since it’s pulled when you open a credit card or get a loan. It impacts the price you pay for these products and can even impact your insurance rate. Under the law, you can get this score when it’s pulled since it impacts the products you’re approved for and the price you pay. Some companies simply send it to you when they pull it. Others make you request your score within a certain timeframe after it’s pulled. Shouldn’t it always be available to you?

Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, launched a petition to help consumers gain access to their score through the website “Defend Your Dollars.” The campaign is called, “Know Your Score,” and it’s an online petition consumers are asked to sign if they want free access to their score once a year.

I think it can happen, but it will take a lot of effort before consumers are given access to the score for free. Consumers got access to their reports, so click here to sign the petition and start the movement for a free credit score.

Related stories you may like:
Keep tabs on your credit report year round for free
How your credit score is calculated
Getting a free credit score
10 consumer reports you should get
Keeping your name off a sucker list

Publicizing your purchase to save money

Retailers are looking for new and creative ways to advertise as mass media shifts from television and print to online. Social media plays a huge role in making nothing — something. Tweets, re-tweets, and shares on Facebook are great ways to expose a new product or service to potentially new customers.  Special promotions are often offered to followers or those who like a page. Now, companies are finding ways for you to make money by sharing their product on social media sites.

When you buy a product online, you’re asked if you want to let others know about it. You can share it on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter , and other sites. Soon, your news feed will be filled with more than just the news story your friend read, game they played, or the music they listened to. I think it’s a matter of time before our feeds are filled with items people bought at stores as more and more people share their purchases. Their may be good reason to share that purchase — it may earn you cash!

American Express is offering a program it calls “Tweet your way to savings.” However, this takes the marketing to a whole new level because you have to sync your eligible American Express card with Twitter, and tweet special offer #hashtags to get exclusive savings on your card. The savings are great, but is it really such a good idea to link your Twitter account with your credit card information?

To answer that question, it depends how much you value a deal.  American Express says it doesn’t share your card information with Twitter. Instead, the company said a unique identifier is used to link the accounts. That’s one thing to consider.

Also, consider the work you need to do to cash in on the savings. Is it worth it, and are you buying something to simply save money? Only certain companies participate in the promotion. To find the offers, you have to go to American Express’s Twitter page and read the Tweets under the Favorites section.

Here’s a look at some of the current offers: Zappos is offering $10 back on your next purchase, H&M is offering $10 on a $50 purchase, Gulf Oil is offering $5 back on $25 purchase, Whole Foods is offering $20 back on a $75 purchase, and Virgin America is offering 10% off a main cabin ticket. For example, for Zappos you tweet #AmexZappos and you get your statement credit within a few days as long as you meet the minimum purchase requirement.

This is not the first coupon venture for American Express if you link your card to a social media site. In July 2011, I wrote about their “Link, Like, Love” Facebook promotion. It works in a similar fashion in that you link your American Express card to your Facebook page, and based on your interests and your friends interests you’ll get special offers and deals. You can also browse the promotions.

I think this is the wave of the future. It’s the latest way for companies to get their product in front of a broader audience. All, for free.

Other ways to make money online without publicizing your purchase
The linking of my credit card to a social media site, even though they say it’s not shared, makes me a little uneasy. I think I’ll stick with other ways to make money. When I shop online, I look to Ebates or my credit card company to see if they have a special promotion with the company I’m shopping. I seek out the savings when I’m ready to buy rather than buying just because I see a good deal.

On Ebates, I earn cash back if I link to a retailer through the Ebates site.  They don’t credit my credit card because they don’t have that sensitive information. The money comes in the form of a check each quarter. Of course, someone is making money because they’re tracking my purchases. So, that’s not exactly the most private service but it’s nice to get that check in the mail every quarter.

With my credit card company, they already have my personal information and if I link through them to a retailer I earn more points than I normally receive. Sometimes, the offers are 3 and 4x more points than I normally earn.

Both of these money saving and earning options are potentially not as valuable as the $10 offer from American Express’s social media savings programs, but there are no strings attached. Plus, I don’t overbuy because I don’t have to make a minimum purchase. Finally, there are far more retailers participating in these other offers. That may change as the marketing changes as I think American Express is on to a new trend.

For now, I’ll spare my social media connections tweets and Facebook posts about my purchases. Will you? Click comment below and share your thoughts on this new type of marketing.

Google wants your phone number — why?

Google recently changed its privacy policy combing more than sixty policies into one. The updated policy also allows Google to more directly target ads to your specifications. The change only impacts users who log into one of the Google services, but it still sparked criticism. So, imagine the surprise of some users when Google began asking for phone numbers. Several companies ask for your mobile phone number for security purposes, but it’s the timing that may have some users thinking twice and asking what’s next?

Google tells users that a mobile phone number is one of the easiest and most reliable ways to make sure your account is safe. It also allows you access to your account if you forget your password or someone gets unauthorized action.

Google says it will send you a verification code so you can get in your account if you can’t get into the services. You’ll also be notified via text when your password is changed.

Last May, I wrote about Facebook’s request for your phone number.   Their “Login Approvals” process had the same intent of increasing security, but it worked a bit differently. With the Facebook system, if you opt in you get a code sent to your cell phone when you log in from an unregistered computer.

Several years ago, banks added security questions, pictures, and PINS. Which raises the question — why your cell phone. If a question or picture is enough for a bank, why isn’t enough for Google, Facebook, or other companies that request your cell phone?

Companies who request your phone number say that’s more secure than your email or a security question because  you physically carry your phone. Email accounts are constantly being hacked, and remember most banks already have your phone number. It’s usually required when you open an account. If your credit card shows unauthorized activity you’ll get a phone call not an email alerting you.

It seems we continually give up more personal information. Perhaps it’s just another sign of the times. Hackers keep finding ways around security and as a result we have to give up more information to try to protect our personal identities. We can only hope they hold our information in as secure a place as possible as security breaches are common.

Ultimately, it’s your decision if you give a company your cell phone. It’s not required with Google or Facebook. It all depends on how much personal information you want to give up and whether you feel that’s less important than the so-called added security.

Facebook Timeline privacy

Privacy, privacy, privacy. Do we have any with all these social media changes? It’s hard to keep your information personal without doing a lot of work. I think it’s worth the time if you are somewhat interested in privacy and truly only want to share information with your true friends.

Facebook Timeline is being rolled out during the next several weeks to all users. Instead of waiting for Facebook to decide your timeline, act today. You’ll have seven days to work on your Timeline and get it ready to be viewed by the public. While a lot of people are grumbling about this mandatory change, it is an easier way to look back at your old posts and see what was on your mind or what you did several years ago. You can find it with a click of the mouse. However, Timeline will take some adjusting. Click here to read about Facebook Timeline 101 and the key things you need to adjust.

Your activity log is a key area you’ll want to explore. It’s an easy way to hide things that you don’t want on your Timeline. Read more about your activity log here.

Once you get your timeline configured, make sure you check your privacy settings. Instead of going through each and every privacy tidbit, I am recommending you watch this extremely information tutorial from CNET. It’s worth the 3 minutes and you’ll learn a lot.

Ever wonder what your profile looks like to someone who is not a friend? In other words, ever wonder what information is public and what’s private? There’s a button next to your activity log that with a drop down box that says “View as.” Click that and you’ll be able to view your profile as the public sees it. This will really help you decide if your privacy settings are what you want them to be.

Want to make sure your phone number, which you need to provide to post photos from your phone, is not public? Watch the video.

There are dozens of great tidbits like that in this video courtesy of CNET. Invest 3 minutes. It’s worth your time if you care about privacy.

Related links you may like:
Facebook Timeline 101 

Zappos customers on alert after cyber attack – the lesson for all of us

Cyberfraud is always rampant, but what’s next this week? Online shoe retailer, Zappos, is warning customers that their personal data may have been accessed including your email address, name, billing and shipping address, phone number, and the last four digits of your credit card number, and maybe even a scrambled version of your password. Yikes!

The email sent to customers tells you to change your password. The company discontinued the passwords that were stolen in their scrambled form so accounts can no longer be accessed without a new password.

To reset your password on Zappos, you simply submit your email address and they send you a new password. Be warned – the new password doesn’t arrive in your email right away. Zappos says it’s had a large number of requests, obviously, and it may take up to 30 minutes.

Password management
Here’s the problem – if you use your Zappos password on other websites you may be vulnerable on other sites. The thieves dig for more information when they get a few pieces. Sometimes those pieces are enough to steal your identity or at least commit more fraud.

That’s why you are always told not to use the same password on multiple sites, but just like you I am guilty of that. It’s hard to create a different password for every site and remember it. That’s why some security consultants recommend a password management program like KeePass. It’s free software that manages all your passwords so you can use different ones on different sites, and it recommends more complicated passwords so your accounts are more difficult to hack.

Finally, don’t use public computers. There may be software installed on it that can steal your keystrokes. Think it can’t happen to you, think again. Click here to see that story. It will make you resist the urge the next time you are on vacation.

Damage control
At this point, the damage is done. The thieves hopefully won’t be able to unscramble the passwords they got, but who knows.  These attacks are very sophisticated and their capabilities seem limitless sometimes. With the last four digits of your credit card and address it may make it easier for thieves to hack into your another accounts.

Change the passwords on other accounts especially your bank and popular ones like Facebook and Twitter if you think they are similar to your Zappos account.

Also, be on alert and don’t fall for spam or phone calls that ask you to verify personal information.

Related links you may like:
Facebook and Twitter security
Erasing your digital footprint
Online hacking schemes – email and Facebook accounts exposed

New Groupon feature allows you to win discounts if you dare to click

If you like Groupon — meet Clicky. The latest quirky feature to be added to the deal saving site. Clicky will be a clickable value-wheel that gives you the chance to get a discount on select Groupon offers. The wheel comes alive with facial features, but don’t count on winning.

The company notes it’s a rather amusing character and that’s on purpose. As the company writes on its blog, “Clicky was designed to provide momentary distraction and meet the minimum threshold of amusement necessary for users to share Clicky, the Clickable Value-Wheel through social media channels, thereby virally spreading Groupon and increasing its number of active customers.” Social media is a lot of strategy, and Groupon clearly gets how to make itself attractive in that world.

As for your chance of winning, Groupon is upfront and honest admitting your chances are slim. At one point the company even admits, “Literally, most people will not win anything.” The goal is to attract new customers through the viral spread of Clicky. The company appeases its legal team by admitting you probably won’t win and customers by disclosing it upfront. To appease shareholders, the company explains in its blog that the value of attracting new customers will be greater than running the program. The company is full of marketing gimmicks, and while odd, they are frank about its purpose.

When I logged into Groupon this morning, I saw the picture to the left in the right hand column of the daily deal site. Once you click on the offer, you’re taken to the picture at the top of this post. The big wheel with facial features. That’s when you’re told to log in with Facebook to test your luck.

When you log into any site with Facebook, you give up all sorts of privacy rights. The company has access to basic information about yourself including your list of friends and other information you’ve made public; your profile; information others share with you; the company can send you email; post to your Facebook account with status messages, notes, photos, and videos; and access your data at any time even when you’re not using the application. This is pretty standard when you run any app or download an app, but it’s another consideration.

So, what are your slim odds of winning? For a $100 discount, your odds are 1 in 100,000. Not good, but not horrible. For a $50 discount, your odds are 1 in 10,000.  For a $10 discount, your odds are 1 in 11, and for a $5 discount your odds are 1 in 20. The real hook is that your discount code, if you do win, is only valid for 24 hours.

To get this to become a social media hit, if you “Like” the game on Facebook, you get five extra bonus spins during the promotion which runs through the end of January. Normally, you get one per day.

The question is – will people actually spend time playing around with Clicky when the company admits “Literally, most people will not win anything”?

Click comment below and let me know what you think.

Verizon asks customers if they want to be tracked

Courtesy Verizon Wireless

A year ago, I reported on the digital footprint we all leave behind when we search the Internet. While unnerving, there are steps you can take to increase your privacy online like using your browser’s Incognito or Private Browsing mode. However, I think we only know half of what is collected about us. As marketers look for ways to make money online and on mobile, we’re learning more about how our personal information is collected. Verizon Wireless is telling customers they collect certain information about them, and if you don’t like it opt out.

Verizon told customers it is updating its privacy policy since it’s using information in new ways. It’s collecting information to make mobile ads more relevant to each user, and for certain business and marketing reports. The marketing report might say 10,000 sports fans visited a site and 60% were male, but the information will not be personally connected to you.

Verizon says it will collect information like the addresses for sites you visit, search terms you use, apps and features used, location of your device, data and calling features used, amount of use, demographic information like your age and whether you are a sports fan.

Verizon says it would want information like your location to tell marketers that a certain percentage of people take a certain highway during rush hour. Verizon says that specific information would likely be combined with data from other wireless carriers. Does that mean we’ll see billboards along that highway targeting certain demographics? It’s a unique opportunity to gather specific marketing research that otherwise wouldn’t be available, but it’s not without critics.

The Federal Trade Commission is proposing a do not track option for browsers. Originally, it was described as similar to the do not call list. It’s a bit more complicated than that, and the FTC says it doesn’t want to run this list and is encouraging browsers to enact do not track standards or lists.

When privacy first became an issue, I was totally opposed to a company collecting this information about me. I know they do it with long-standing things like loyalty or frequent shopper cards, but the collection of data online and on mobile devices seemed more intrusive to me at first. I guess I believed it was intrusive because I didn’t sign up for a web browser to collect my information, but I did sign up to get rewards from my local grocer or the online shopping site that earns me cash back.

As I’ve dwelled on this more, I’m beginning to get a bit complacent about it. We are tracked whether we are driving down the street and caught on a surveillance camera, or our digital habits are tracked. I think companies should be more upfront about it and request our permission. I don’t like this data collection, but it’s beginning to become expected if you use a digital device.

Related links you may like:
Update your browser to surf more privately
Erase your digital footprint
FTC wants browsers to adopt do not track proposal

Time running out to opt-out of Borders transfer of personal information

If you don’t want your personal information transferred from Borders to Barnes & Noble, you need to act fast. The deadline to opt out is October 15th.

While the Federal Trade Commission is not telling consumers what to do, it did link to a letter written to the Consumer Privacy Ombudsman it wrote in September. The FTC said a review of Borders privacy policies revealed that the bookstore “clearly and expressly represented that customer information would not be rented or sold to third parties except in limited circumstances and then only with the express consent of its customers.”

In 2008, the policy changed and included langauge that suggested customer information may be transferred if the company was sold or transferred. “We view this provision as applying to business transactions that would allow Borders to continue operating as a going concern and not to the dissolution of the company and piecemeal sale of assets in bankruptcy. Even if the provision were to apply in the event of a sale or divestiture of assets through bankruptcy, Borders represented that it would ‘seek appropriate protection’ for such information,” the FTC wrote in its letter.

The FTC sued another company and settled with them over similar transfers of private information. The FTC said it would sue again if the following conditions were not met: Borders did not sell customer information as a standalone asset, the business getting the information is in the same line of business as Borders, the buyer follows Borders privacy policy, and that the buyer gets affirmative consent from consumers.

In the letter, the FTC says that the Borders customer information dates back to 2005.

Opting out
Barnes & Noble made it clear in its email to customers that it has products it thinks will be of interest to the customer that it’s seeking consent to obtain their information.  When you try to opt-out, Barnes & Noble tries to convince you to stay by telling you it offers regular discounts, the store is the nation’s book expert, and that your Borders Rewards Plus Membership is transferred into a B&N membership. I get the store has to market itself, but really? These are not very big incentives. A coupon of some sort for all customers would be a better incentive to begin spending in the other bookstore.

Again, the deadline to opt out by email is October 15th.

If you choose not to opt-out, your information will be transferred and covered under the B&N privacy policy.

Barnes & Noble wants customer information from Borders

As Borders stores close, there’s a new debate — what should be done with your personal information? Customers are getting emails from Barnes & Noble letting them know the company bought Borders’ customer list.

In the letter, Barnes & Noble admits it bought Borders brand trademarks and customer list to earn new business. The store says the subject matter of your DVD and video purchases will be transferred. The CEO then talks about B&N devices like the NOOK.

While you can opt-out of the transfer, it’s obvious from the email that your information is already in the hands of Barnes & Noble or at the very least the Bankruptcy Court.  You have until October 15th to opt-out. It’s done by email address.

When you try to opt-out, Barnes & Noble tries to convince you to stay by telling you it offers regular discounts, the store is the nation’s book expert, and that your Borders Rewards Plus Membership is transferred into a B&N membership. I get the store has to market itself, but really? These are not very big incentives. A coupon of some sort for all customers would be a better incentive to begin spending in the other bookstore.

If you choose not to opt-out, your information will be transferred and covered under the B&N privacy policy.