Monday, March 9, 2009

5 Ways to Leave Yourself Open to Fraud or Theft without using Social Media

Last week I had coffee with a clinician who was in need of an overview on how social media might help with some education efforts that they are hoping to launch soon. Our discussion went well until he cut to the chase and explained that most of his interest was in iTunes U and the idea of developing an audio podcast series of their educational content. I explained that one benefit of this was that the information would now be portable for the convenience of the student. Not soon after, he asked the question... probably one of my most frequently asked questions.

Doesn't this leave us open to copyright infringement?

My answer was as it always is... probably, but you must decide if the benefits outweigh the risks. As you know I like to explain things in plain terms. I told him to equate it with the amount of risk you assign to a student loosing a notebook. Yes if the lost their iPod and your classroom content was on it, and for some reason it was found by a malicious person from a competing institution... yes then you might have a problem. But it would probably not be much different than the problem you would have if they lost a notebook.

Then this brilliant scientist said to me "But with the iPod they could copy and distribute our information right?" Have we all forgotten about the copy machine, or the scanner? If a person has malicious intent for your property they will find a way to obtain it and misuse it no matter where you put it.

This got me thinking about all of the other ways that we could be putting our information in jeopardy of fraud, theft or copyright infringement without using social media.

1 Throw your information into a garbage container - If a person wanted your bank, or billing, or credit card information, all they would have to do is dig through your trash after you drive a way unless, of course you are in the habit of shredding... everything.

2 Lose your notebook or calendar- What do you write down? Do you write meeting notes, or addendums to your schedule and whereabouts on a daily basis? Don't loose those bound pieces of paper they may leave you open for a transfer of TMI to someone without your best intentions at heart.

3 Place your photos in frame on your office desk - Do you have pictures of your children or friends just sitting out on your desk for the casual passer by to review. What is to stop them from stealing one, or scanning or copying them while you are out at a meeting? It would take a real sickko to do that right?

4 Post anything on your website or send it through e-mail - Every time you put your information up on the web Google takes a snapshot and keeps it in the archives forever. Check your website, does it contain anything that you would not want anyone to copy? With e-mail I have had my main e-mail account for almost 10 years, I have some oldie but goodie pictures, and notes from of people that then sent in 1999. Who owns those?

5 Carelessly allow yourself to become a victim of any kind of crime of theft - We all know someone who has been the victim of a crime. A broken into car or home, a stolen purse or wallet, or a credit/debit card number theft via gas station pump. Every time something like that happens there is a chance that more than just the surface information was stolen, and we know for a fact that those people are malicious.

I could probably keep going... Don't drink the water, don't eat the food, don't go outside... Everything that we do carries some kind of risk. Everyone has their own level of tolerance for these risks. I am just saying, don't discount the benefits of the digital and new media tools to distribute your message because of your fears of perceived risks. Research, understand and mitigate those risks with thought in how you use the tools, and understanding of what the risks really are.