Tuesday, October 15, 2013
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Before the Internet, there really was a thing called privacy. Today - not so much. Just last week, both Google and Facebook made big announcements that affect your privacy. Or at least, as we know it today.
And yes, there IS something you can do about it.
We'll start with Google. A new option called Shared Endorsements is an easy way for you to "get great recommendations from your friends." At least, that's how it's billed by Google.
If you write a review about a product, follow a business or tag it with a +1, Google can now display your name and profile picture in an advertisement for that item. And if you had a bad experience that you've shared, well..., Google will share that, too.
For example, you just can't start your morning without a cup of WaWa coffee and tell them so. One of your friends may use Google Maps to find the closest WaWa location to wherever they may be traveling. Beneath the street view image, they may just see your name and profile picture along with your comment.
Or another friend is doing a web search for their menu. If WaWa buys ad space on Google, your recommendation will be included in that advertisement.
If you have a Google+ account, you can now be the star of your own commercial without your consent, or paying you a royalty.
You can choose whether you want to appear in these ads. Login to your Google+ account and choose Settings. Select Google+ from the list on the left side of your screen.
A Shared Endorsements statement will load in a new browser window. It explains what I've told you here in Google-speak. Scroll to the bottom to find your consent preference. Uncheck the box and save your setting.
This only opts you out of ad endorsements. If you've recommended something that is not a paid advertisement, your endorsement will still display.
The example used by Google is in their Play Store. Your favorite band just released a new single and you gave it a +1. Your buddies will still see that when they search the Play Store for that same band.
Facebook, on the other hand, is making a change you have no option to reject. When first launching their Graph Search, users were given options to select who can search for their Timeline by name. Like most other privacy options offered by the social site, people didn't bother to pay any attention to it.
Until the option was phased out. Now everybody is talking about it.
If you were one of the few who chose to remain invisible, you'll soon be greeted by a screen informing you otherwise. They'll offer a handy link to follow for instructions on better ways to manage your privacy.
In truth, people could still find you whether or not you enlisted this setting. It merely prevented your name from appearing in a Graph Search result. A friend of a friend could have clicked your name in a post or image you were tagged in. You really weren't invisible.
Nor should you expect to be when you engage in social networking. It's the very purpose of this type of website.
But you can, and should, learn about the privacy settings available to assure you are only sharing content with those you're comfortable doing so. We've covered this countless times so won't rehash material here that you can find doing a quick search on GCFBank.com.
Facebook maintains their new policy gives you more control over sharing your personal information. Yet it is a bit cumbersome. There is no universal setting you can select to assure all information in your About section is only seen by those you choose. You can do that with older data, anything you posted prior to their Timeline format. But you now must choose how you want each piece of your profile shared on an individual basis.
New information sharing policies should be no surprise. Both Google and Facebook are public companies. They have stockholders to answer to, and must perform to expected standards or risk their very existence.
Both are free services for their customers. So how do they turn a profit?
Their revenue comes through advertising dollars. And for it, businesses get more than ad space. They get the most targeted, comprehensive mailing list money can buy.
There is much you can do about this. Use the privacy settings available. Don't publish personal information. Ignore messages that your profile isn't complete; they really don't need your date of birth or telephone number. Don't post anything you'd be embarrassed to show your grandmother.
And if you're really offended by such practices, delete your account. Don't use it. It's as simple as that.
The Markets Are A-Twitter
Oops. The news leaked before they had planned. Investors, mark your calendar for November 15 if you want to be among the first to own TWTR.
Twitter is trying to avoid the circus atmosphere that surrounded Facebook's IPO. CEO Mark Zuckerberg later admitted to being so wary of how the company would change if it went public that he delayed the rollout longer than he should have. Speculation about when, if and how much filled the headlines for so long that the actual launch was anti-climactic. And devalued the stock before it reached market.
Twitter launched March 21, 2006, and hasn't really caught on as rapidly as Facebook. Their 500 million users are dwarfed by Facebook's 1.26 billion users.
It won't be easy for Twitter. Analysts estimate the company's current value somewhere between $10 to $20 billion currently, despite posting a $69 million loss last year. They expect shares to debut between $28 to $30 and rise to $50 by year end 2014.
There is still much to be decided about the Twitter IPO. We still don't know which exchange they'll trade on. Tech companies traditionally flock to Nasdaq, but after the Facebook debacle they may trade elsewhere. The Nasdaq couldn't handle the nearly half-million FB orders that hit at its 11 AM opening. Technical glitches prevented many from buying, others didn't even know how much they had purchased. It cost the exchange $10 million to settle mismanagement claims.
That's about where the Twitter/Facebook similarities end. They are two entirely different vehicles, serving two entirely different purposes.
Twitter users have learned to make a statement in 140 characters or less, using unusual combinations to save space. The posts can look like hieroglyphics to someone unfamiliar with the trend. And it turns off many who might find value in certain posts.
Twitter is more about transmitting bits of information than it is your personal life. With only 140 characters available, those that learn the art of teasing the reader are the most successful. Post enough to raise their curiosity and provide a link to get the whole story.
News agencies post breaking stories. Information is communicated as it is happening.
Companies engage customers with tweets about new products, upcoming sales or special deals for their followers.
Entertainers post tour dates, new releases, and comments about the show the night before. They interact with their fans on a personal basis. Tweet messages to broadcasters during a sporting event or even news anchors during a show.
Even Pope Francis has a Twitter account where he imparts words of wisdom to those who choose to follow him.
Perhaps Twitter's greatest value lies in its room for growth. The average Twitter user has 208 followers on whose home page your tweet will instantly display. If something catches your interest, retweet it to exponentially increase the exposure of the message.
Ratings firm Nielsen last week introduced Nielsen Twitter TV ratings to measure activity of television show conversation. According to the company, 98,600 people wrote messages on Twitter about the "Grey's Anatomy" season premiere. Those people generated 225,000 posts seen by 2.8 million distinct Twitter accounts.
Number one in the rankings that same week was the finale of AMC's "Breaking Bad" with 1.2 million posts, reaching 9.3 million Twitter accounts.
Not only can the company monitor their reach, but they also know what people think about it. No longer do the network's switchboards light up when someone is offended by something they see on TV. The repercussions travel much further.
So how can you place an accurate value on a tweet? One New York Times writer gave it his best shot in the paper's October 7, 2013 edition.
David Carr estimated one tweet alone to be worth $6 billion. Depending on who sent it. He goes on to analyze how a dinner meeting between hedge fund manager Carl C. Icahn and Apple CEO Tim Cook resulted in three Twitter posts. And an $18 billion capital increase for Apple. Read his analysis here.
Only time will tell whether Twitter will follow the footsteps of Facebook, Groupon and others whose IPOs didn't go too well. Hopefully, they'll learn from the mistakes of others and give us something positive to read in the market news.
Tip of the Week
Did you file an extension for your 2012 federal income taxes? Today is the deadline granted. This is not affected by the government shutdown.
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