Being Singaporean,  Bitching,  Family and Parenting,  Self

How Much Does Your Personal Information Cost?

Yahoo! Singapore pushed out an article last week on a Singapore Polytechnic survey about social media security concerns, drawing information shared from a panel discussion hosted by Trend Micro (which I should have attended; sorry guys). More than in the capacity of being Trend Father, though, there’s something very important that everyone needs to understand about online privacy and internet security, which the article unfortunately does not address.

You’re Responsible for Your Own Information

To put it plainly, if there’s stuff in your life you’re inclined not to share, just don’t share it, particularly on a platform as volatile as Facebook. Nicole Yee, founder and my Trend Wife, said it herself in the article: “I consider myself to be pretty savvy but because things are constantly changing, I chose not to use [Facebook] because I just don?t have the time to understand it properly.”

What’s more, we’re only human. When it comes to information, be it our own or others, intended or accidental, we have been able to prove to ourselves time and again, as this planet’s most intelligent race, that we cannot even trust ourselves.

The Internet Isn’t Free

On the flipside, how can we avoid going online? With the exception of Nicole, our online lives are so intertwined with our real lives that they have become one and the same. On the other hand, the social networking tools we engage in, the blogging platforms we write on, even the e-mail accounts we use, that we depend on to keep our lives sane and our communications open, also depend on us. They’re all businesses with a bottom line they need to take care of, each and every one of them. And we pay for these services rendered not with money, but with information. The lot of us have lived through the dot-com bubble burst, so you can imagine how this new, 3rd generation of technology is holding our world economy together.

When you see it that way, you might have an understanding of how your personal information is being valued, and possibly being used. You might also understand that there is a transaction being made for what you enjoy on a daily, hourly, per-minute basis. Whether that transaction sits well with you, I leave for your interpretation.

A Father’s Take

If you’ve read the articles here and on Dear Xander, you might get the idea that as a dad, I have no time to entertain fear, nor do I want to bring my son up in a world where fear rules your every decision and movement. Fall down and hit your head? Get up, rub the bump off and carry on. Stranger-danger? Go on and talk to everyone you see that goes, “Oh you so cuuuuuute!”. Hackers and tech misfits? If you ever meet one, by all means, make friends with the fella; you’ll learn a heck of a lot about what these people really think about your privacy concerns.

Being a blogger, a writer, and an uber-liberal parent who treats social media like my bloodline, my two golden rules for protecting myself online, then, is this:

  1. I must live an honest life. I will steer well clear from being a hypocrite, ensure I stand firm to my beliefs or don’t believe in them, and I will not lie. If I’m honest about everything I do and everything that defines me, I have absolutely nothing to hide.
  2. Pursuant to golden rule number 1, I cannot trust myself.

Wait, what?

Look, if I’m going to be sharing my life online, in part or in my full naked glory (no, I won’t go that far, so don’t worry), I have to make sure the assets I do need to protect isn’t tainted by any personal info that may or may not already be out there. And I know as well as any other connected individual that having become so dependent on putting up my name, my stories and my info on blogs, social media, online registration forms, geotagging apps and GPS maps, there is no absolutely no way I can assure myself that someone out there already knows my e-mail address, my mother’s maiden name, the name of my first pet and what my grandfather did that fateful night when my father was conceived.

So with all my trust issues, I’m just gonna let a non-human do all that protection for me.

I get a good proper Internet security program to keep script kiddies, hacker groups and info-stealers out of my hair. I get a password manager to create and maintain the passwords I use, that even I cannot see. And I do not respond to rich Nigerian princes who want to transfer US$50 million into my account and give me 5% share (unless I want funny pictures of them).

Most importantly, as long as a piece of information is liable to be shared on my many personal outlets for venting my joy or frustration, I do not put any of it in on registration forms where I can help it. As far as any of these places that use such verification tools are concerned, my mother’s maiden name can well be Queen Cleopatra Estella Kowalski the Fifth, because while I endeavour to live an honest life in the presence of my fellow human beings, I’m perfectly fine with lying to a computer.

This post is proudly NOT sponsored by Trend Micro (I sumpah!). So if you don’t agree with any of this, don’t blame them, blame me.


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