This list is meant to be a set of talking points for engaging with family and friends and reminding them of the implications of interacting on the internet with companies and each other via services such as Facebook, Twitter, and Gmail. The point isn’t to stifle all interaction, but instead to try to raise awareness of the consequences with an eye towards increasing “privacy prudence.”

It is easy to toss out “If you are not the customer, then you are the product,” but what does that actually mean? It means:

  • Any information you give a company will be kept forever.
  • This includes via offline means like warranty cards, sweepstakes, subscriptions and the like.
  • Any information you give a company will be used to sell you things.
  • Any information you give a company will be used to deny your claims.
  • Any information you give a company will be sold to other companies.
  • You won’t know all or any of the companies that bought your data.
  • Any information you give a company will end up in (the/a/many) government’s hands.
  • Elected officials, political parties, religious organizations and charities that you give information to will act the same as any company with your data.
  • Any information you give a company will end up in criminal hands.
  • Credit monitoring, deleting accounts and class action lawsuits can’t undo the damage done.
  • Just because a company says they deleted your data at your request doesn’t mean they did.
  • Any information you give a company can and will be used against you in a court of law.
  • You can’t know all the pieces of information you give to a company, because some will be silently collected by invisible means.
  • Every web page you visit is giving a company information about you.
  • Every email you receive is giving a company information about you, or trying to, via embedded images that tell whether you opened the email and unique web links (personalized URLs, or “PURLs”) that track how effective the email was in getting you to engage with the company.
  • Any information you give a company will be aggregated with information you’ve given other companies and the government, yielding ever more insights into your life, health, mental state, family, relationships, business and leisure, as well as those for your family and friends.
  • Those other companies may change their relationship to you based on the data they bought - your insurance payment may go up because of your credit card purchase patterns or payment history.
  • Your search results and news headlines will be limited by algorithms that “know what you want.”
  • Any information you give a company probably sells some family and friends down the river.
  • Your family and friends have sold you down the river.
  • No one sold their family and friends down the river on purpose - you were just exchanging emails (data), social posts (data), calendar invites (data) and links to interesting things (data) with your contacts (data).
  • “Anonymized data” usually isn’t.
  • It is getting harder and harder to surf the internet anonymously, no matter how many browser plugins you install - look up “browser fingerprinting.”
  • Any terms of service for using a site, software or service can be changed at whim, invalidating all past promises by a company.
  • Silently append “for now” to any statement made by any company in regards to privacy or data collection.
  • Even companies founded on the premise of preserving privacy “forever” should be heard as always saying, “for now.”
  • Mergers and acquisitions trump terms of service, every time.
  • There is no such thing as a “good” company, there is only maximizing shareholder value.
  • Selling and using your data against you maximizes shareholder value.
  • Privacy can be given away, but it can’t be bought back.
  • There is no way to control any of the above, other than to not play.
  • Not playing is data, too.

Contributions in the same spirit are welcome. Thanks to Aaron and Mark for their feedback.