Blog of Rights

Like Privacy? There's An App For That!

By Sam Ritchie, ACLU at 5:16pm

It's 2011 and my whole family is more plugged in than ever. My mom picks me up at the airport and we use her GPS to drive to the house that my family has rented for a Thanksgiving-week family reunion. Along the way, my brother uses his iPhone to check up on football scores and see how he's doing in his fantasy league. I use my BlackBerry to post a late-breaking update to the ACLU's Twitter feed, and also to check-in on my personal Foursquare and post an update to Facebook. When we get there, my aunt puts aside what she's been reading on her Kindle while she waits for us to arrive. Later that night, my cousin pulls up movie trailers on her iPad, so we can decide what we'll go see later in the week.

This kind of instant and constant electronic access is such an everyday phenomenon to so many of us that we don't think about what personal information we're exposing simply by using these technologies. Sure, we're all well aware of the dangers of posting pictures from weekend escapades or snarky comments about your boss to your Facebook page, but what about the information being collected by Facebook as you surf the Internet? Or by your cell phone as you travel? Or by your GPS device as over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house you go?

Today we've launched a Facebook app that assesses your privacy exposure based on your online habits and technology use. Don’t worry, we also provide some information on steps you can take to protect yourself and your personal information.

If you’re thinking, “I have nothing to hide – if I don’t want everyone to see it, I don’t post it on Facebook,” think again. The things that we “like” and the other entities that we’re affiliated with online reveal a lot about who we are. Take the example of a gay Stanford student who wasn't out to family and friends back home in his small, conservative community in the South, but wanted to “like” an LGBT campus group that he was a part of on Facebook. We shouldn’t have to choose between being on Facebook and keeping control of personal information (in this case, his sexual orientation).

You can also use the app to share this information with your friends and the people you love. What better gift to give at holiday time than the gift of knowledge? Check out the new app on our Facebook page!

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