Internet Privacy: Meet Little Brother

Big Brother has gained renewed life in the internet age, as the specter of governments and corporations observing our every move gets continually larger as more and more of our life is online. We all know this and are learning how to protect our privacy. But now, as a guest on marketing podcast The BeanCast puts it, the greater threat may be coming from "Little Brother".

Little Brother is an amalgamation of all the people we give our information to voluntarily: family, friends, co-workers, etc. All the people we have no qualms about sending our contact information and embarrassing pictures. The risk is not that they will sell or use your information maliciously, but that they may inadvertently make your private information public. And building product marketers and sales reps are part of the problem.

The problem is simple: we are using social media to become part of our clients' online networks. We are becoming the trusted people that get access to their profile. Which means it is incumbent upon us to ensure we are not endangering their privacy through our own actions.

This requires a higher level of scrutiny than merely maintaining your own digital privacy hygiene program. You may have gone through all the Facebook privacy settings and throttled the data fire hose down to a drippy faucet, but if your clients have not done the same then any apps you install may have access to their data through you. Other sources of risk include forwarding messages to the wrong people, tracking cookies, and sharing publicly something given to you in confidence (or in assumed confidence). Not to mention one of the classics: having Facebook notifications pop-up when using your computer for a presentation.

Avoiding Little Brother is not about anti-malware programs or privacy settings so much as it is about developing certain behaviors and awareness. Privacy breeches happen online (see my key rule on internet privacy), that's a given. But if your clients feel the breech came through your action or inaction, you lose them as a Friend. And lost Friends are lost clients.