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Our big, friendly online world isn’t so friendly or free as it seems, is it? Have you ever stopped for a moment to ask yourself what you’re really agreeing to when you click “I agree” on a company’s Terms of Conditions and Privacy statements? Is anything ever free? Do you know how your personal data is being collected? Let’s ask the hard questions.
Weiskopf Consulting’s top specialists are here to discuss privacy concerns across Google Chrome, Microsoft Office, and Facebook. It’s a topic worth having a conversation about, because, in a way, we’re basically screwed.
We really never know much about the policy or privacy changes that companies make, even though we get update notices. But let’s find a silver lining here. At the least, we can be educated about what’s going on with these policy changes and be aware about what we’re agreeing to. And know what choices we can make. Like when we are using a “FREE” service.
Using a FREE service to collect and store our passwords, like LastPass, and having it available unlimitedly across devices, until one day, it changes, and we’re forced to say “yes,” again, and sign the new policy book, and then start paying for Premium so we can continue using it across all our devices. I’m not saying it’s bad that they’ve decided to monetize; rather, I’m trying to point out that a “free” platform can change at any given moment, for better or worse. And if a platform stays free, like Facebook, there’s still a kind of ‘payment’ involved that concerns our personal privacy (more on that later). Let’s see what our specialists have to say about the platforms we use and online policy, because as you know, at Weiskopf Consulting, we’re your partner, here to bring you to success.
Jennifer Davis on Google Chrome Privacy
Digital Media Specialist and Google Specialist
Google Chrome is taking another hit when it comes to privacy. A claim by a software developer challenged Google engineers in a GitHub Issue post regarding the header data sent by Chrome could be considered a unique identifier (like your social security number) and would be in violation of various privacy laws.
While Google denies the claim indicating it contains information regarding the variation of Chrome being used, people are still concerned. As we all know, there is no 100% private browsing. It is a personal decision how comfortable you feel with your data in the hands of any browser company, Google, Firefox, Apple, Microsoft, etc. I’d say to be proactive about it, instead of just being uncertain or afraid. Start with their terms & conditions and privacy statements; read through them. 🤣 Next, browse their support pages to learn about and how to change various privacy settings. This includes making the decision in privacy settings to opt-out of sharing your browsing and other data with the company. -Jen Davis
Leslie Church on Microsoft 365 Connected Experiences and Privacy Settings
Microsoft continues to provide more experiences in client applications that are connected to and backed by cloud-based services. Consisting of client software applications, Microsoft 365 is a connected experience designed to enable you to create, communicate, and collaborate more effectively. Working with others on a document stored on OneDrive for Business or translating the contents of a Word document into a different language are a few examples of the several connected experiences.
If you choose to use connected experiences, required service data will be collected to ensure that all these connected experiences will be reliable, up to date, remain secure, and perform as expected.
- Analyze your Office content to provide you with design recommendations, editing suggestions, data insights, and similar features. For example, PowerPoint Designer or Editor in Word
- Download online content
- Allow you to search and download online content including templates, images, 3D models, videos, and reference materials to enhance your documents. For example, templates or PowerPoint QuickStarter
Privacy and Setting Choices in Office
You can access the privacy controls within your Office apps by selecting File > Account > Account Privacy.
These privacy settings allow you to configure your connected experiences. You can, as an example, choose to enable connected experiences that download online content, but not connected experiences that analyze content. Turning off connected experiences will also turn off additional experiences, such as document co-authoring and online file storage. But even if you use this privacy setting to turn off connected experiences, certain functionality will remain available, such as syncing your mailbox in Outlook, as well as essential services described below. -Leslie Church
David Marks on Facebook & Privacy
Digital Media Specialist
Facebook does not charge its users to have an account on its platform. Their users are allowed to be friends with their loved ones, family members, and friends, and follow brands, celebrities, and businesses that they would like to know more about.
However, this isn’t the entire story. Signing up for Facebook is essentially signing away your right to whatever data you voluntarily give to the social media giant. Whenever a user “Likes” a Page, follows a brand, or indicates a demographic point about themselves, they are voluntarily (knowingly or not) giving Facebook a general idea of what kind of consumer that user is.
This information, or data, is what a user is “paying” to Facebook for the use of their platform. Facebook, in turn, monetizes this data by selling ads to digital advertisers. Facebook is in the business of selling digital ads, and business has been good, to say the least. In the fiscal year 2019, 98% of the $55 billion (yes, BILLION) that Facebook made in profit was from digital advertising (source: Facebook).
This brings up the question of whether information or data is private on Facebook. The answer is complicated. When registering for Facebook, a user signs their rights away to the data they give to Facebook. Facebook claims this information is safe, but the Cambridge Analytica scandal has shown that Facebook may not be the ultimate guardian/protector of users’ data that it claims to be.
So where does this leave us? It’s ultimately in the users’ hands. We recommend only putting information on Facebook if you are comfortable with it getting “out there” in the digital realm. The social media behemoth may try hard to protect data, but nothing is 100% safe in this world. So stay safe! -Dave Marks
Last, BUT NOT LEAST
Essentially, we should be aware of online privacy and develop the best habits we possibly can for our online world. But yes, I still think we’re screwed. Luckily, there are privacy choices we can still make, even though we may be forced to comply with quickly changing terms and conditions and privacy statements.
The truth of the matter is there hasn’t been total transparency with how corporations like Google or various apps are using and collecting our data. As users, do we really know how our personal information is being put to use? We’ve only touched the surface of it in 2020/2021. Not very impressive. Yes, a new policy has been put into place in December 2020 called “privacy nutrition labels,” which make app developers disclose their data collection practices, but there are still predicaments that will ensue. DuckDuckGo, a privacy-focused search engine confronted Google and said they were “spying.” And finally, Google released how much personal data they collect. It was a lot of data. At least Google has been adding privacy labels over the past few months. Read more about it, and recent changes in privacy protection here.
Privacy and data collecting is a presently growing concern. It should be an on-going conversation. We hope this presented information helps act as a resource for you and starts a conversation. We would love to hear your thoughts, so please be sure to leave a like and a comment.
Virginia Weiskopf, Personal Technical Guide
Over 20 years of expertise providing technical solutions that let you focus on your business.