Unintended Consequences of Online Tools

As I’ve noted before, you can share too much online. But a few recent stories about unintended uses of new online tools caught my eye to serve as a warning about the Law of Unintended Consequences.

First, there’s this story about how people in Africa are using the mobile phone payment system M-Pesa when they are suspicious that their partner is cheating on them. Basically, when you suspect your partner is cheating because he/she is constantly receiving calls/texts from a number that doesn’t have contact information associated with it, you can use M-Presa to send a minimum payment (less than $1). When you send the money, you receive a confirmation with the identity of the recipient, enabling you to either confirm your suspicions or at least confront your partner about the identity of this mysterious caller.

Second, there’s this story from Julia Dawidowicz at AnimalNewYork.com about how clip-on health trackers can disclose when you’ve been engaging in “vigorous” activity while remaining in one place.

BodyMedia armbands and Basis watches are gaining popularity in the tech world as a way to monitor and share fitness data with doctors, trainers, and even social media friends. Each type of physical activity produces its own unique “signature” — that is, the sharable line graph will look different when you do yoga than when you go for a run. Or when you have a sweaty romp in the bedroom.

Dawidowicz goes on to say, “If you thought secret email reading or phone bill snooping was bad, just imagine the possibilities these devices will offer the controlling, jealous crazies of the world if when they become part of our daily repertoire.”

And speaking of the “controlling, jealous crazies of the world,” there have been a few stories about people using LinkedIn as a stalking and harassment vehicle, this one from BuzzFeed, and this one from Huffington Post about a Change.org petition for LinkedIn to add a “block” feature.

All of these go to show that sharing information online can have a dark side, as well. Be careful what you put out there.


About John Nicholson

I'm a transactional attorney who focuses on structuring and negotiating large outsourcing transactions (both on and offshore). As part of my work, I've specialized in: - Structuring and negotiating large outsourcing transactions (both on and offshore) including IT outsourcing and various BPOs (including HRO, Facilities Management, Procurement, Finance and Accounting), large systems development and implementations; - Assisting with development of RFPs, proposal evaluation, down select, and negotiation; - US and European privacy laws, including US Safe Harbor, and state privacy and data breach notification laws; and - Privacy, security, legal and contractual issues associated with cloud computing. I'm a frequent speaker on outsourcing, privacy and security issues. Before becoming a lawyer, I was the acting IT director for a mid-size company prior to hiring the CIO and project manager for the company's Oracle Financials implementation.
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