It’s true, there’s plenty to be concerned about when it comes to protecting your online identity. From stolen passwords and phishing scams to address books and online calendars – the sheer amount of personal information swirling around the internet can paralyze us with paranoia. But a recent blog post on The New Yorker website suggests a casual vigilance that could very well save your sanity and your identity.
Nicholas Thompson draws a poignant metaphor in his blog, writing that:
“Privacy snafus are to social networks as violence is to football. The whole point of social networks is to share stuff about people that’s interesting, just as the whole point of football is to upend the guy with the ball. Every so often, someone gets paralyzed, which prompts us to add padding to the helmets or set new rules about tackling. Then we move on.”
In other words, Thompson argues that we shouldn’t necessarily find privacy breaches shocking considering that the very nature of social networks is to share information – occasionally of a rather personal nature. The trick is to focus your revisionary prowess on the stuff that matters the most – like online fraud.
This idea of picking and choosing your privacy battles was introduced in an essay published last year by Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. In his essay, “Databuse,” Wittes asserts that the cache of demographic information collected by advertisers and social networks is something to be conscious of but perhaps not worthy of keeping you up at night. Instead, what really warrants our attention is the way that our personal information is being used.
As Thompson explains for The New Yorker, the overlapping channels through which our personal information is shared online produces the most cause for concern. “We need to be certain that insurance companies can’t raise our rates after they learn we’ve searched for “irregular heartbeat” online,” he writes.
Lawmakers are trying to catch up with the issue of internet privacy and the free flow of information in an ever increasingly connected world. But in the meantime, the best defense against fraud is likely an aggressive offense. Be aware of the information you’re sharing online, keep your passwords private and be sure to monitor your online accounts.