Companies vow to protect private online data


Important to look at safeguards and whether sharing information requires etiquette


CHENNAI: This Thursday (January 28) was observed as the Data Privacy Day by the United States, Canada and 27 countries of the European Union that accord as much importance to personal data security online as to privacy in general.

It was also a day when several huge corporations — some of which are under the scanner for their privacy policies — renewed their pledge to safeguard private data of millions of its users.

In a scenario of increased information sharing online, especially on social networks, it becomes important to step back and look at not only the safeguards on personal data online but also whether online information sharing requires any etiquette.

Some companies have started systematic monitoring of online activity, especially on social networking sites such as Orkut and Facebook, of their employees to an extent where they consider online data “professional data;” and hence ask them to show some restraint.

Earlier this month, Facebook’s young billionaire-CEO Mark Zuckerberg said: “People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people. That social norm is just something that has evolved over time.”

It was both in defence of Facebook’s new controversial privacy policy, which has received flak from several quarters, and also a commentary on whether the notion of privacy itself no longer exists the way it was a few years ago.

While the U.S., Canada and some European countries have explicitly laid out Data Protection Acts and agencies monitoring them, in India the issue falls under the Information Technology Act, and some of the prosecuting powers are vested with the office of Industry Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) working under the Information and Technology Ministry.

N. Vijayashankar, a cyber law expert, says most of the rules and regulations of data security, as they exist in the American and European countries’ data protection Acts, have been incorporated in the revamped Information Technology Act of 2008.

India not having a separate privacy law still will mean that online users disgruntled with misuse of private data have to find ways under other Acts to get justice, he says.

There have been a lot of concerns on what the big companies such as Google and Facebook will do to safeguard online data. But another aspect of data privacy is also about what individuals voluntarily disclose on social networks. Often on Facebook and LinkedIn, people unwittingly disclose professional information that could end up either with those who must not get it or even in the hands of hackers.

In one recent instance, a software service provider in Chennai was looking for investments and one of its senior executives put out the information on his LinkedIn profile. It was brought to the notice of the CEO, and the information was asked to be pulled out. “It would have reflected badly on the company had the sensitive information reached the attention of competitors. On a social network, such news goes viral immediately,” said one of the representatives of the company, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Employers use social networking sites to check on job seekers

Job seekers need to be watchful while posting information about themselves on social networking sites like Facebook and Orkut, as a majority of Indian companies are using such sites as a tool to do prior research on the candidates, a survey has found.

Out of the 100 employers surveyed, about 73 per cent of them said they use social networking sites to research job candidates, according to the report by online job-site, CareerBuilder India.

Another 15 per cent plan to start using these sites for screening.

The report revealed that about 42 per cent of employers have found content on social networking sites which leads them not to hire prospective candidates.

About 48 per cent of employers said they disregarded a particular candidate after screening because he lied about his qualifications on social networking sites, and 31 per cent of employers said they did not hire a candidate as he showed poor communication skills.

Job seekers who bad-mouthed their previous employer, co-workers or clients, and even shared confidential information from the previous employer are some examples of prospective candidates being rejected.

“Make sure you are using this resource (social networking) to your advantage by conveying a professional image and underscoring your qualifications,” CareerBuilder India Managing Director Arti Pullins said.

About 59 per cent of employers reported that a good profile supported by job-seekers’ professional qualifications help them in recruiting.

The report suggested that job-seekers should remove photos, content and links that can work against them, while searching for a job.

More than 1,000 employers participated in the survey, which was completed in December 2009.

This social networking website helps you meet friends offline

Twitter brought online social networking down to 140 characters by asking a simple question — what are you doing right now? The next level of social networking asks a similar question — where are you right now?

 Sites like Orkut and later Facebook were designed for use on the PC or laptop.

 Twitter pushed social networking onto the mobile phone — after all, whether it’s travelling, shopping, or simply relaxing, the most interesting experiences in our life (which we like to share) do occur outside our homes and offices.

 And now, new services like Foursquare, Yelp and Gowalla are building upon the mobile platform by incorporating ‘location’ into social networking. Among the three, Foursquare is fast emerging as the frontrunner. Athough it started catching on in the US only last year, it already has a footprint across the world, including Mumbai.

 The key feature drawing people to Foursquare is location-awareness. You can create an account at either through your PC or mobile phone. But you really use the service over the mobile phone.

 If you are a Blackberry, iPhone or Android user, an application is available for you to install. Others can log in to  on the mobile phone’s browser.

 Shakti Salgaokar, a writer based in Mumbai, uses the Foursquare application on her iPhone. “The moment I start the application, Foursquare pinpoints my location using the GPS on my iPhone.

 Using my location, it tells me about various places nearby. It also gives me a to-do list recommended by other users. If I were in Dadar TT, it can list places like D Damodar, Pritam da Dhaba, or the Mumbai-Pune bus-stand. For someone new to the city, this can be of real help,” she says. Local information is fed by users of the Foursquare community.

 You also get tips about these places left by other users. So when you check-in to, say, a restaurant, Foursquare will display a list of tips. And if there aren’t any, you can be the first one to add tips for that establishment. Zubin Nalawalla, accounts supervisor at Interface Communication, recalls how this helped him.

 “I was at Moshe’s in South Mumbai. One of my Foursquare friends had left a tip saying that the blueberry cheese cake at this place was awesome and I sure made it a point to order one after reading it.”

 But the real kick from Foursquare is the offline connectivity. When you are entering a restaurant or any other establishment, you ‘check-in’ to Foursquare. If the place is not listed, you can add it to Foursquare by giving its address, and then checking-in. The moment you do that, your Foursquare friends will get a notification.

 “Foursquare allows you to broadcast your location to your friends. If they are in the vicinity, they will know, and can perhaps catch up with you,” says Asfaq Tapia, a Foursquare user in Mumbai who works with an online marketing agency.

 Of course, if you don’t want friends on the social network to know where you are all the time, you can turn off the broadcast and check-in.

 Foursquare also adds an element of competition, which is another draw for some people. Users are awarded points whenever they check-in to a place. Earning points unlocks various kinds of badges.

 For example, you can get a badge if you check-in to your gym regularly. The user with the maximum number of check-ins becomes the mayor of that establishment in Foursquare. The mayorship is under constant threat as other users too will constantly be checking-in to wrest the badge.

 That’s because these badges come with some real-world rewards. In the US, Foursquare has tied up with restaurants, cafes, and even bookshops, who give discounts or freebies to their ‘mayors’. There are other incentives too.

 A Barnes & Nobles bookstore at the University of North Carolina, for example, was giving away a tall coffee free for Foursquare users who check-in and buy a pastry.

 Such deals aren’t available in India yet, but local Foursquare users believe it is just a matter of time before outlets here latch on to it. Currently the number pf users in Mumbai is small, which limits its utility.

 As Nalawalla points out, “It’s like Twitter, which is no fun if you don’t follow anyone or have no followers.” Salgaokar agrees, “Right now, I seem to know more about places in Mumbai than Foursquare does. But that will change when more people start using the service.”

 Indeed, tech pundits are betting that in 2010 Foursquare might well turn out to be what Twitter was in 2009. As Robert Scoble, a widely followed tech blogger based in the US, noted in a recent post, “Go back three years ago. Twitter was being used by the same crowd that is playing with Foursquare today.”

Media Monday: Finally TV Broadcasters see Social Media as a handy tool

Digital Advertising agencies like Web chutney, Quasar Talk, Phonethics etc are in social media marketing business for quite some time. Their client lists boasts of names such as Airtel, Makemytrip, General Motors, Sony, Nokia etc.

Even though the success through online media was quite apparent for Big Brands, television broadcasters never seemed excited enough until now (was that lack of respect for internet?) for marketing through such channels.


But times have changed it seems. We have seen quite good number of TV Channels using social media methods to increase their presence over Web. The move has been really encouraging for News channels.

For e.g. when you are over Facebook you can become a fan of “Times Now” Channel and can get interesting story updates on your wall as and when they are published.

Moreover you can also read comments posted from over 15,000+ fans. We also have similar pages on Facebook from channels like ”MTV India” (over 2 lakh fans) and even for specific shows like “Starting up” on ET Now.

The other channels which are used for Social media marketing include Orkut, linkedin, twitter, Youtube etc. Star plus started its own online video portal “” sometime back and has even premiered some shows over these social Media Channels.

It’s a real good move as TV audience is quietly shifting from watching shows over TV to watching them online. Online streaming gives them an opportunity to watch their type of shows at preferred timings without any need to remember schedules.

Let’s hope that more and more broadcasters look at this medium with interest to serve us better. What say?