It’s become quite normal for many of us to freely share a lot of information online in very much the same way that you might chat with colleagues or friends. You wouldn’t shy away from telling friends what you do for a living, or the names of your kids, and many people will happily give that kind of information away on social media sites.
To a certain extent that makes perfect sense; if you’re using a site like Facebook, why wouldn’t you put the names of your kids into a photograph so that those on your friends list can see what they’ve been up to? Likewise, many of us enjoy sending photos of our holidays online so that as many people as possible can see that we’re sitting in a tropical paradise right now. Although in that case, it may be wise to rethink on a basic security issue; telling the whole world that you’re most definitely not at home is a rather obvious sign to burglars.
At the same time, it’s well worth remembering that your private information has value; it can be used to market to you in a more targeted way, but also to build up a profile of who you are and what you do. Many of us just blindly click on the end user licence agreements for many web sites without considering what it is that they’ll do with the information that they’re given.
The recent case uncovered by an Australian app developer is a good example of where your private information might be being shared in a way that you may not anticipate. Developer Dan Nolan wrote an app based around former Prime Minister Paul Keating, the Paul Keating Insult Generator. Originally for Apple’s iOS platform, he ported it across to Google’s Android platform, and that’s when he discovered that every single purchase of his app gave him the details that Google had on that user, including email addresses and in some cases, mailing addresses as well. That’s a rather large security hole, and Nolan wasn’t happy. (http://phetdreams.tumblr.com/post/42959902001/massive-google-play-privacy-issue)
Now, some of this does come down with how happy you personally are to be transparent (or hidden) online; it can be quite enlightening to search for your own name online with a few modifiers based around, say, your profession or where you live. For some that’s a natural online progression. For others, it’ll be an uncomfortable realisation that many of your online activities and interests may be as simple as a search to uncover.