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Kiwis urged to consider 'privacy balance'
Thu, 5th Dec 2013
FYI, this story is more than a year old

If the Edward Snowden situation has taught us one thing, it might be that privacy is very often just an illusion.

In fact, Michael McKinnon, technologies security advisor for security software AVG, says as internet users, we've all been trading privacy as an invisible currency for the past few years.

So much so that we're often providing valuable information about our lives, via social media sites, with little thought to how the information might be used 'against you, either wittingly or unwittingly in future'.

McKinnon, who was in New Zealand this week, says privacy is increasingly coming to the forefront of public awareness, thanks in part to the Snowden affair, but says AVG has been focused on the topic since well before then.

“It's not a new thing," he says. "This year it has come into people consciousness, but we have been harping on about it for a long time.

“And it's not just privacy with concern to government organisations. If anything the Snowden situation has clouded the focus. Private industry is doing just the same thing.”

Earlier this year AVG released PrivacyFix, a free application available for desktop and mobile - iOS and Android - which provides a single dashboard for privacy settings across Facebook, Google and LinkedIn.

Users can quickly see what they're sharing and with one click, get you to where you need to be in order to change the setting. The app will also alert you when companies such as Facebook make a change which affects your settings. The app also allows users to see how exposed they are, what info they are sharing and what it's worth to advertisers.

“It's an estimate of what revenue you're giving away to that company,” McKinnon notes. He says Kiwis need to consider what their 'privacy balance' is.

“It ranges from going completely off the grid, unplugging and not having Facebook because it's 'evil' and so on, to the other extreme of posting a picture of every meal you eat, posting about everything your dog did, sharing everything.

“You have to make a choice, and it's a personal choice.”

McKinnon, who says his balance tends towards sharing, says it remains 'quite difficult' for the average person to find and set their privacy in Facebook, and many are not aware of the settings they should care about. The constant evolution of Facebook also complicates matters.

“Then there are the subtle things like, did you know Google tracks your YouTube viewing history? Is that something you want someone to see? You can turn it off [but were you aware of that, and do you know how?]”