Tag Archives: privacy

How To Edit Friends and Not Look Dumb to People

At first I was going to detail how to make a friend list, put people in it and edit your privacy settings all in that little box.  Instead you get a blog post with pretty images.

An Allegory

LinkedIn is the “social network” for your co-workers. I keep track of a lot of people there.  Sometimes you like a person you work with enough to go to a Judas Priest concert with and you totally have to share that picture of you two with K.K. Downing.   So now you and Judas Co-worker are friends and she’s friends with that annoying guy in accounting who sees her tagged in a photo with a Grammy award winning guitarist and you.  That leads to Ned McNedly pressing the + Add as Friend button on your profile and you don’t really want the boss’s son to see how much you play Dumbo Racer.  Sometimes the network works against you.

If you can’t send Ned to you clinically app-free LinkedIn profile you can friend him without giving away too many personal details.  Time for some pretty pictures!

Go to that giant time-waster (that’s not the way I really feel about you Facebook, don’t be mad) and click on the Account button, then Edit Friends (where is this functionality IRL? JK I <3 u just the way you r).

Press the + Create a List button.  Call it something that would burn the soulless zombies you work with to their very core if they knew they were on your list.

Lists are a great tool for categorizing your friends.

Now to shut out the unworthy.  Click Account again and choose Privacy Settings.  You should see a giant field titled Sharing on Facebook.  Change to Custom, then click Customize Settings.

On the next screen you can “control” all the privacy leakages social networking enables.  Try it out.  Pull down the control next to Posts by Me and choose Customize.

Type the name of your new list in the Hide this From box and you can safely play Dumbo Racer all day long.

How Do You Know It’s Working?

Facebook gives you a way to check what your profile looks like to other people.  Click on Account then Privacy Settings.  You get the Sharing on Facebook screen pictured above.  Choose Customize Settings again.  In the upper right there will be a button labeled Preview my Profile.  Try that.

Profile Preview

Do like it says and start typing a friend’s name to see the world in their eyes.

Sales Tax & Your First Amendment Rights

This morning I heard a story about a large corporation and a judiciary both acting in favor of privacy over taxes.  It warmed my cockles.

As the recession continues states look for ways to fix budget shortfalls.  Raising or enacting taxes is politically incendiary in an election year but one state saw a way to increase revenue.  Last year North Carolina asked Amazon for information about goods it shipped (complete with names & addresses) to residents between 2003 and 2010.  It intended to collect sales tax owed by the good people of NC.

Even though Amazon does not charge sales tax on purchases the buyer may be responsible for paying come April 15th.  North Carolina asked for records revealing identities and purchases as part of a tax audit of the online retailer.  Amazon replied with detailed information regarding the items purchased, dates, amount of purchases, and county to which the items were shipped, but no personally identifying information.  The state acknowledged the information is sufficient to assess sales taxes, but pressed for all the requested details.

With the aid of the ACLU Amazon fought back citing the First Amendment, specifically the Video Privacy Protection Act which bars “wrongful disclosure of video tape rental or sale records.”  Since passage in 1988 the protection was extended to cover DVDs, video games and books.  The federal district court in Seattle, Washington ruled in favor of Amazon.

Withholding the information was financially disadvantageous to the company because Amazon could not claim potential deductions, resulting in a higher tax bill.  They did the right thing in the face of monetary loss.

The cynic in me sees Amazon putting up a great public relations campaign in favor of privacy, all the while selling our personal information in secret to other companies.  Other states, including my home state of Texas, are pursuing uncollected tax revenue from Amazon and making a strong showing against the Tar Heel State may bolster their other cases.

Overall it is a win for privacy and I’ll take it.