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Do We Have a Reasonable Right to Privacy Using Social Media?



social media-privacy

Old school first

With the telephone we were given the ability to opt out of telephone books and information lines (1411) and also the ability to add ourselves to the ‘do not call list.’ We safeguarded our information by keeping private our social security numbers, as well as addresses to protect our identity, and our families.

Fast forward

Today, using social media, we really put ourselves out there. A few years ago Facebook had many layers in which to be anonymous and not be found, but continues to peel the onion little by little. You also really only had one or two ways of searching people out, typically by using Google, or by knowing an individual uses a specific online network. Today however, websites continue to pop up that are gathering intel on you and your online activities.

And why not, information is probably a trillion dollar business when it’s all said and done, but I wonder to what end?

Are the days of reasonable privacy over? Are we developing a world of ‘in your face?’ Afterall, apparently it’s been ruled that service by Facebook holds up in court, and repo pros are learning where you are by use of geo websites, and any Tom, Dick and Harry can video you and post you on the internet, or snap your picture while at Wal-Mart and call you a people of.

I realize that you can be private, and you can opt for which onion layers you can keep on Facebook, but really, how many pieces of the puzzle does it take for someone who wants to find you, to actually know exactly where you’ll be and when? From process service, to real true to life stalkers, what will it take to get Congress to put teeth into legislation that allows you to absolutely opt out of public directories? Isn’t it time?

If our names are our new phone numbers, it stands to reason our names should also be protected if the consumer so wishes it, with specific exclusion, from not only all databases, but from Google as well- it’s a reasonable request and hold liable any website that distributes information without the users permission, disclaimers are not enough because in the end, that’s a hold harmless for accidents and mistakes, isn’t it? A website operator can opt out of Google, but could a human being? When you Google yourself, is Facebook a top tier result? Did you permit that?

It’s still early in the game, but it doesn’t take a degree in rocket science to do this math, does it? Where does our Government draw the line anymore?

We’d like to know your thoughts…

Do you have a reasonable right to privacy? Should social networks have an all in one opt out button? Should Congress consider putting real law behind it the same way they did with cell phone privacy?

UPDATE: the Electronic Frontier Foundation has filed suit against the Department of Justice and five other governmental agencies for cloaking how they use social networks to investigate citizens for criminal and civil matters. The suit demands that the agencies make public their methods. Full report on

Related reading: The Google Cleaner: Erasing Folks From The Internet

Benn Rosales is the Founder and CEO of The American Genius (AG), national news network for tech and entrepreneurs, proudly celebrating 10 years in publishing, recently ranked as the #5 startup in Austin. Before founding AG, he founded one of the first digital media strategy firms in the nation and also acquired several other firms. His resume prior includes roles at Apple and Kroger Foods, specializing in marketing, communications, and technology integration. He is a recipient of the Statesman Texas Social Media Award and is an Inman Innovator Award winner. He has consulted for numerous startups (both early- and late-stage), has built partnerships and bridges between tech recruiters and the best tech talent in the industry, and is well known for organizing the digital community through popular monthly networking events. Benn does not venture into the spotlight often, rather believes his biggest accomplishments are the talent he recruits, develops, and gives all credit to those he's empowered.

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  1. Matt Stigliano

    December 3, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    Benn – Privacy. Hmmmm. This is a tough one for me. As a rockstar I lost all sense of privacy. I’ve had my personal details leaked to the public (on my own site no less), phone calls at 3AM from German fans, photos posted of me that I wasn’t a willing participant in, and even mentioned on TV in a way that implied something other than what it was (it was a VH1 special on groupies – we met a famous 60s era groupie and took photos with her – my photo appeared in the show – nothing more). I tried to keep much of my private life private. I never told people my real name (although everyone knew it), never talked about my family or wife by name, kept photos of my family away from the public (until later, when our families willingly gave up photos of us from our childhood), and I had unlisted numbers and private emails for friends and family (my band email was the master account, so I got all the fan email).

    Of course now, I want my phone number plastered everywhere. I still try to keep certain pieces of my life private and can certainly understand a parent’s worries about privacy, but still (because of my former career) I feel so indifferent to it. I guess I just sort of accept it.

    I do think a master opt-out would be a great idea. As a real estate agent though, would you opt-out? I don’t think I would – one of my goals is to be found.

    Perhaps someone look Google needs to create a name server like database for opt-outs. We have name servers all over the world that check domain names and route traffic, seems logical that someone could design a series of them to allow for opt-outs.

    I think your average internet connected individual does accept a certain amount of lack of privacy as the social norm these days. Going back to my comments on “net neutrality” (where I talked about the telco industry convincing us to pay for minutes we weren’t going to use), I wonder if this is similar…being convinced that are privacy is gone, until it truly is gone. Know what I mean?

    • Benn Rosales

      December 4, 2009 at 12:37 pm

      Professional accounts, it’s no matter. What were really talking about here is consumer protection. We currently have more protections on our cell phones than on our own names as online identifiers. New media spaces can do more to offer consumers the ability to opt out or opt in of directory scraping.

  2. Molly

    December 3, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    I remember the days of vanity screen names and keeping your personal information very secretive. Now it almost seems that some people have gone full swing the other way to talking about personal bath habits online while using their full name AND putting it on

    Facebook it, Tweet it…broadcast it to the world.

    We have all heard of people who have gotten robbed because they tweeted they were out of town, where they were, how long they would be gone…

    I have started to pull back on some of my online “social” activity. Some of it is because of lack of time-the rest-I am tired.

    I am also having a bit of an identity crisis….”personal” Molly who has her own blog and “professional” (working for a RE Company) Molly…and the overlap-or trying to prevent the overlap…exhausting. Agents don’t have that problem because they ARE their brand. I’m really not.

    • Benn Rosales

      December 4, 2009 at 12:39 pm

      It really is hard to seperate the two. If we live online, at what point do we close the blinds, and do we have that option? Not really.

  3. Doug Lazovick

    December 3, 2009 at 7:12 pm


    I think we’ll be hearing a lot more on this subject in the not too distant future. Today, it is still possible to maintain some degree of reasonable privacy. However, this basically involves avoiding all social networking. Moving forward, you will need to participate in social networking if you have any desire to participate in society. So, we will deal with this issue head on pretty soon.

    My guess for where this is all headed? We will have to get used to having less privacy than we are accustomed to, but there will be legal protection for those who wish a slightly higher degree of privacy.


    • Benn Rosales

      December 4, 2009 at 12:40 pm

      I predict we’ll see this issue before the supreme court in the next year or two in one fashion or another.

  4. Eric Hempler

    December 3, 2009 at 8:26 pm

    I think we started out as being private and then someone along the way decided, “let’s show everything”. Now that we’ve shown everything I think social media is learning what we would like to keep private and over time there will be some kind of a balance. As long as privacy options are available I think it’s up to us in the end.

    As Realtors we’re kind of stuck. We’re out in the public trying to get business and have our faces on everything we market, but at the same time some of us would like some anonymity.

  5. Loren Sanders

    December 3, 2009 at 8:34 pm

    Great questions…in general though if you are putting stuff out on the internet, I think you can count on it being there forever, even if it is only for your friend list? It will be interesting to see what kind of regulations will come down on the road. Thanks for the thoughtful post.

  6. Mike Bowler Sr.

    December 3, 2009 at 10:01 pm

    Benn, Interesting post. I hope Uncle Sam stays out of this business. I have always been under the impression that nothing we ever do, say, and sometimes think is an open book when it comes to email and social media. The private setups are nice for family pictures and discussions on Facebook. I think WAVE willl shake out to be the more private conversation tool for collaboration, while everything on social media will continue to make all vulnerable for spam and other abuse. As a Realtor I disclose all contact information except my cell phone and home address. My smart phone knows where I’m at better than I do most of the time, I imagine that will play a row in privacy also.

  7. Thomas Johnson

    December 4, 2009 at 2:38 am

    Privacy is an artifact of inefficiency. Information want to be free and as processing costs crater toward zero, there should be no expectation of privacy. That genie is out of the bottle. A long time ago, when I was a Georgia resident, my SSN was my driver’s license number. It was even printed on my checks.

    • Benn Rosales

      December 4, 2009 at 2:46 am

      Hey Thomas, humble question for you, what does “Information want to be free” really mean? Can you give context to that? I hear it all the time, but honestly, I don’t think it means anything, I think they’re just a group of words google made up? Seriously!

  8. MIssy Caulk

    December 4, 2009 at 11:49 am

    Well I had a fraud alert on my business card. They said they presented it in person. NO way I only have one and it is with me all the time. The purchases were from Canada and I haven’t been there is years.
    So it freaked me out and you start to ask how did this happen?
    Well gosh darn I’m only all over the internet. So far nothing else has happened.

    P.S. I like EFF they do a good job. 🙂

  9. Ken Brand

    December 5, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    Hmmmm. I believe we won’t see a big “privacy” movement until there’s some emotionally wrenching tragic event, could be a sensational murder, child abuse or it could be some sorta act of terrorism. Someday, tomorrow, next week or next year, something will rock the public perception of social media from social and fun to sitting duck and dangerous.

    When it does, there will be a screaming public outcry, politicians will leverage the tragedy to spark publicity and enhance their political polish and on-line leaders will police themselves to insure continued growth, ad sales, etc.

    In the mean time, there’s too much money to me made mining the data, voluntary protections aren’t likely. Most civilians aren’t aware of the pitfalls and negative possibilities.

    Also as you’ve stated, while we can’t opt-out today, we don’t need to broadcast unwisely.

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The House Judiciary antitrust investigation holds big techs’ feet to the fire

(POLITICS) CEOs of Alphabet, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon set to testify in House Judiciary Committee antitrust investigation hearing today.



house investigation

The House Judiciary Committee is closing in on the end of a year-long investigation into tech giants Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon, to evaluate possible antitrust abuses. CEOs from all four companies were set to testify on Monday, July 27, 2020. The hearing has been pushed back to Wednesday, July 29, to allow members of Congress to pay respects to civil rights leader Representative John Lewis (D-GA) who died of pancreatic cancer on July 17.

Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Tim Cook of Apple, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, and Sundar Pichai of Alphabet (Google’s parent company) have all agreed to testify. This will be Bezos’ first time in front of Congress, whereas all the others have testified before on different matters. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was invited to testify by Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH), but is expected to not attend.

The Antitrust Subcommittee began the investigation in June 2019. Each business has been the subject of scrutiny for their roles in dominating their respective industries and playing an outsized role in market competition for smaller businesses. The Committee is interested in evaluating current antitrust laws and whether they apply to, or should be updated for, these mega corporations. They have already heard testimonies from smaller companies like Sonos and Tile about these companies’ alleged monopolistic practices.

The focus of the investigation for Apple is on the App Store, and whether it has implemented policies that are harmful for app developers. Google has a tight hold on the online advertising market. Amazon – which during a five-week period early in the pandemic saw an increase in value equivalent to the total value of Walmart, the world’s largest firm – has been criticized for its treatment of brands that sell on its e-commerce platform. Facebook is being investigated for its acquisition practices, cornering the social media market with purchases like Instagram.

Amazon is expected to face additional scrutiny for its treatment of warehouse workers during the pandemic. Facebook and YouTube (a subsidiary of Google) have been the subject of regular criticism about monitoring hate speech on their platforms, and their treatment of the workers responsible for doing so (Facebook in particular).

The hearing is set to occur virtually in order to adhere to social distancing guidelines. Watch the hearing live at 12:00 p.m. EST Wednesday, July 29 on the House Judiciary Committee’s YouTube channel. Please do note the hilarious irony of streaming a Congressional antitrust hearing on YouTube, which is owned by Google, which is owned by Alphabet, which is testifying at said hearing. God Bless America.

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Additional unemployment benefits outside of the CARES Act

(POLITICS) Unemployment is at an all time high in the United States and individuals need to be aware of reapplying for additional benefits.



unemployment broke

June saw some additional jobs in the US and unemployment fell as of early July, but CNBC advised pausing on any celebration just yet, saying that “The employment crisis is still worse than any time since the Great Depression, the country’s worst economic downturn in its industrial history.”

The unemployment statistics in our country right now are really scary – especially for individuals and families that see a looming deadline of July 31 for the supplemental $600/week provided by the Federal Government through the CARES Act put in place in March. There are discussions on extending these benefits as many families have not been able to replace their incomes or find new employment opportunities, but it doesn’t seem like anything has been finalized there yet. Congress is in the middle of a variety of options:

  • Discontinue the additional $600/week but allow those on unemployment to continue to file and receive their state benefits (usually up to 26 weeks or possibly extended up to 39 weeks by The CARES act)
  • Send out additional stimulus checks (Congress is currently exploring a $X Trillion stimulus package)
  • Extend the additional funding (on top of the weekly amount allotted by state) but cut it from $600 to $200
  • It’s also been put on the table in the House of Representatives “The Heroes Act” to extend the additional $600/week until January 2021 ($3 trillion).

There are some additional benefits that are available (different than the funds by the CARES Act), but you may have to reapply for them. So, make sure to check your state’s unemployment pages and your filing status. Some states do not require you to reapply and you can continue on with extended benefits.

According to CNBC, “The additional aid expires after the end of the year. (This is a different program than the one paying an extra $600 a week through July 31.) For some reason, the [Department of Labor] has taken the position that people have to file for the additional PEUC benefits,” said Michele Evermore, a senior policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project.”

No doubt that this can cause additional stress and uncertainty especially when you have questions about your filing and are unable to get through to someone on the phone. With the way that the unemployment cycle is setup, technically July 25 is considered the last date for that cycle (and July 26 for New York), so be sure to check and see what the next steps are for you if you are currently filing.

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How will pausing the reopening of states impact the recovery of the economy?

(POLITICS) The resurgence of COVID-19 has left Americans with a lot of questions about our nation’s economic future. That ambiguity is seemingly a feature, not a bug.



COVID-19 reopening economy

The rest of the world watched as the United States dramatically reopened “the economy” last month. Now, it seems we’ve changed our minds about that.

The White House has repeatedly said that it will be up to individual states to form their own pandemic response plans moving forward. But letting local governments devise their own solutions has produced large gaps in their preparedness, as well as profound confusion around the best practices for balancing the country’s public and economic health.

California, which represents the largest economy in the US and the fifth largest in the world, was one of the first states to put serious quarantine restrictions in place. The decision to relax those orders only came after anti-lockdown protestors demanded that Governor Gavin Newsom reopen the state’s beaches, businesses and churches. Newsom may now regret this capitulation as California just called for a second round of statewide lockdowns.

Other state legislators are slowly following their lead, as the threat is becoming very dire in some places. Florida, for instance, is now a global hotspot for COVID-19 and Miami is being called “the new Wuhan”. The state is also currently struggling against another wave of unemployment, partly because their economy is heavily dependent on summer tourism (which has persisted despite the spike in cases, but not nearly at pre-pandemic levels).

Florida, California and Texas are altogether responsible for 20 percent of all new COVID-19 cases globally.

Every state is fighting two battles here. Coronavirus relief efforts in the US are still seriously underfunded, and most health organizations here lack the resources to effectively test and treat their communities. But the problems that have emerged for workers and small business owners, like evictions and layoffs, have also been devastating in their own right.

In essence, the United States reopened in an effort to curb the nation’s financial freefall and ballooning unemployment. Economists predicted at the beginning of July that reopening would allow the US to avoid a recession, and all would go smoothly. These projections likely did not account for a spike in cases that would halt this economic rebound.

That’s not to say the circumstances here haven’t improved at all over the past months; currently there is no acute shortage of ventilators, and doctors have had some time to refine their strategies for treating the virus. Overall, the national unemployment rate is slightly declining, while working from home is going so well for companies like Twitter and Facebook that they will be permanently switching much of their staff to remote work.

By comparison, though, New Zealand took the pandemic much more seriously than the US did, and they are objectively in a better position now in all respects. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern cracked down hard and early, closing the country’s borders completely, and instituting rent freezes nationwide. As a result they have virtually eradicated COVID-19 within their borders. A report from S&P Global also expects New Zealand’s economy to recover quickly compared to the rest of the world.

While this tradeoff seems like a zero sum game – as if we have to pick either our health, or our wealth – it is not. In fact, we could very well end up with neither if our lawmakers don’t proceed with caution.

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