By now, we’ve all been conditioned to protect our Internet privacy when we make purchases online. Most people know to only use reputable sites, make sure they use encryption software, don’t give out too much personal information at once, never give out your social security number – the list goes on and on.
We’re even becoming a little more aware (sometimes learning the hard way) that we should exercise some restraint on our social media sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter.
What you may not know is that consumer sales organizations, including retailers, insurance companies and lenders, are very interested in your social media habits, profiles, blog comments and your social network of ‘friends’. Many of them are data mining social media sites and blogs to get a full personal profile of you and learn about your buying behavior through your social behavior.
One of the most talked about data mining services is Rapleaf, who claims to give retailers the ultimate in customer insight – by crawling through the most popular newsgroups, blogs and social sites – all unknown to the individual consumer. While lending and credit agencies swear that they only use factual data to determine credit decisions and scores, they still use social data to understanding consumer profiles – even looking at the credit worthiness of your friends or your followers on Twitter. After all, Twitterers of a feather, flock together.
Here are three important tips to keep your social pages from undermining your consumer rights:
1) Absolutely EVERYTHING you put on the Internet is public information. Period. Don’t let strict ‘privacy settings’ give you a false sense of security.
2) Choose your friends wisely. Don’t accept ‘friend’ invitations from random people you have never heard of or know only through friends of friends of friends. Your circle is being watched and mined for your connections.
3) Monitor posts on your account frequently and remove anything offensive.
Social networking and blogging is fun, friendly and here to stay. Just be mindful that your online conversations are big business for big brother retailer.