For the record, we have not ever shared any of our subscriber data with anyone. And we will not ever. That has been our policy since 2002, when I first started adding a splash of Green to Wall Street and transforming lives on Main Street. Also, we have never had a hack where any data was harvested. Our last hack was the equivalent of someone breaking in, and taking only a glass of water. We do not store any credit card information online.
We you take your privacy seriously. Always have. Always will. Yes, it requires updating our software and changing passwords regularly and taking extra precautions. This has worked for 16 years now. It is just the way we do business – built into the everyday structure.
We are a small mom shop. Imagine what a company worth half of $1 trillion ($496 million) could do to protect you if they really wanted to. Facebook generates revenue through advertising and data mining for marketers. That is their business model. When we sign up, that is what we are signing up for. All of those fun personality profiles are really data analytics that help companies (and politicians) to target us more effectively. In return, we get a lot of free things. So many that most of us cannot even consider going somewhere else. What about all of our photos? Our groups!
The one upside is that now everyone knows why knowing which famous person you most resemble is not a silly, harmless fun thing to share with everyone. And why forwarding a chain letter isn’t going to bring you good luck. These are actually creepy marketing tools that allow professional profilers to spy on you even more deeply – into your inner world and what motivates you. Awareness that this foil has been exposed will only drive new innovations from marketers and politicians. Our best protection is the age-old adage, “Free is never free,” and greater wisdom and awareness into the platforms that we have all been sucked into.
One more very important thing. I have seen a lot of people online looking at other social media that they might transfer over to. This area is already rife with scams and people touting privacy, who really are not capable of protecting your data. They just do not have the technological expertise. More than a few have a history of exploiting people and/or data.
So always look and see who is running the company and the board, etc. If they do not have major technology people on the board, then it is very likely an opportunist exploiting the situation, rather than someone who is really capable of creating a great social network platform that can protect you better than Facebook.
If you are curious about how to identify the red flags of opportunists, here’s a short hit list.
1. The company’s leaders and board don’t have any corporate experience in what they are offering. They are here because it is a hot topic.
2. A short Google search of the name of the chief executive officer or founder, alongside the words “SEC lawsuit complaints scam,” reveals some hits and damning information. Alternatively, if the name turns up nothing at all, not even a bio, then you can rest assured that that person has had his/her name scrubbed from the Internet. Neither are good signs.
3. The About Us reads like an advertorial, with little or no information about who is actually behind the operation. (I saw one new social media like this, based out of Iceland.) Legitimate companies have an easy link to learn who the major players of the company are, along with their bio and expertise.
4. The contact us page has a post office box and an 800 number, or the only way that you can get in touch with them is to fill out a form.
5. If you see all or most of the above, and the company is based out of a notorious tax haven or other place where scams have been seeded, like the Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Florida (Bernie Madoff) or Nevada, then you’ve got another red flag.
Incidentally, Facebook isn’t the only business that has a creepy way of spying on you. Ever notice cute cartoons or news in an elevator? Gets a better shot of your face in the video camera. Pepper, the peppy, outgoing, robotic “technical ambassador” at the Mandarin Oriental in Las Vegas, Nevada, can detect your emotions by detecting facial, body and voice cues. She beckons guests to “Come over here,” and sighs when you don’t. Cut. But creepy, when you understand what she is programmed to do.
Natalie Pace is the co-creator of the Earth Gratitude Project and the author of The ABCs of Money, The ABCs of Money for College, The Gratitude Game and Put Your Money Where Your Heart Is. She blogs on Huffington Post and Medium, and is a frequent guest contributor to national news shows and magazines. She has been ranked the No. 1 stock picker, above over 830 A-list pundits, by an independent tracking agency, and has been saving homes and nest eggs since 1999.