Handheld gadgets and social networks are all the rage these days. If you're one of the millions who use them, you may be surprised to know information about you is being collected, and sometimes shared with others. Here's what you need to know to protect yourself.
Privacy policies are used in all sorts of businesses, from banking to online shopping sites. Among other things, they explain what types of information the business collects from its customers, how that information is stored and kept safe, and with whom your information might be shared.
For instance, it's not uncommon for businesses to keep track of customers' names and addresses and purchase histories and to share some of that information with their affiliates or business partners.
Perhaps with the increased use of handheld devices and gadgets, increased popularity of social networking sites, and technological advances, there seems to be a trend of changing privacy policies and collecting more user information. Sometimes, the changes cause some concern, too.
So, it's possible that, after you log on to your Facebook account and later go to one of the pre-approved sites, that site may know your name, gender, the names of your Facebook "friends," and it may even have your Facebook picture. And it gets that information without your knowledge or express consent.
For the most part, your personal information is made public by default - meaning you have to go into your preferences and manually "turn-off" Facebook's ability to share this information.
According to Apple, it collects this information so it can provide location-based services to its customers, like GPS maps. In the past, Apple relied on third parties, like Google Maps, for information and data. Now, the company is building its own database and uses information collected from some users' iPhones.
Also, the company claims information is collected only from customers who approve the use of location-based tools on their phones and actually use a GPS tool or "app."
Apple also explained how and why it collects "diagnostic" information on specific phones. With the user's express consent, it collects location-specific information about the phone to see, for example, if calls are "dropped" more often in specific locations.
Protect Your Information
There are some things you can do if you're worried about the collection, use, and sharing of your personal information:
- Check the privacy settings. For example, you can stop Apple from collecting your location data by "turning off" the location-based service, or by saying "No" when you run an application for the first time and you're asked if the app can collect your location data
- Check the policy periodically. Normally, most businesses and web sites let their customers know when there are changes to their privacy policies. You may get a letter in the mail, an email, or a message posted on the web site itself. Re-read the policy if you get a notification
- Ask the business or web site to tell you what information it has about you and ask them to remove anything that's inaccurate or, in your opinion, is too personal
- Don't use the service if you don't like what information is being collected or how it's being used
If you think about it, practically everyone discloses some personal information to a business or company everyday, and probably more than once a day. We all need to realize that the information is being collected, and we need to know how it's being used and make sure it's not abused.
Questions for Your Attorney
- Can a company sell personal information like my name and address to other businesses?
- What happens to stored personal information when a business or web site shuts down or goes out of business?