Last week, in part 2, we learned about what we share online, including an introduction to the risky data we share online. This week, however, we’re going to dive into who can see your information.

Who can see what data is an interesting topic and the answer varies by application and preference, but, very simply, your data is either public or private.

Let’s define public and private data in the digital context:

Public Data: This data is exposed to the world. It is indexed by search engines like Google and can be seen and consumed by anyone…think globally. In other words, this data is consumable and is consumed far beyond your local network (friends, family, etc.) (Example: Twitter)

Private Data: This data is limited to a chosen audience. The audience could be just you, one or more individuals or a group of people.

Let’s review a couple examples of commonly used services and how the data privacy ‘context’ changes based upon the ‘network.’

On LinkedIn there are essentially 3 different categories with which someone can browse your information:

  • The first lens is a public user. A public user (someone that searches google and finds your profile) can see some or all of your information.
  • A LinkedIn member can see all of your information minus your connections (this is what I call a membership benefit).
  • A connection, on the other hand, can see all of your information plus your personal connections.

Three different lenses into your digital world but each with the ability to see your data.

On Facebook, Public data can be seen by anyone, anytime, in other words, it is visible globally. Within Facebook, you also have the option to filter your data to:

  • Friends
  • Friends of Friends
  • Custom predefined groups

We call this security filtering. Facebook has some useful controls in this arena, but YOU have to be diligent about creating a system that properly controls your exposure.

In both of these examples, there is a benefit to hackers being part of the network. Being a member of these services often gives someone more access than not being a member. Why does this matter? It matters because hackers can and will simply grab an account and start collecting data (imposters, fake friends, etc.).

These are just two examples of services and who can see your information. There are plenty of others. Do you use NextDoor? Strava? Snapchat? Dating apps? Who sees what is serious business and can have dangerous consequences.

Next week’s installment will dive into the dangers of oversharing. Remember: this isn’t just about understanding what you share–it’s also important to understand the risks!

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