For several years now, I have smugly been talking about the weak privacy standards of Google and Facebook, confident that my providers were better than that. Well, it turns out that Yahoo is guilty of the same things. Yes, I use the Yahoo webmail service and I’ve been very happy with it. And, yes, I strongly recommend that everyone have a personal webmail account that is unconnected to your current work email.

Anyway, about three months ago, Yahoo launched several information sharing services. If you use the Yahoo Contacts feature, other people in your address book would be able to see what you’ve been up to – postings, connections and other activities within the Yahoo sites. And you can see information about them.

In principal, I have nothing against features that let us share information with others. My problem is the underhanded way that these companies roll the new features out. I never received any announcement about them and certainly got no training on my options to control the information they would be sharing. Worse, the default settings are “share all”. You have to know to look for and then take deliberate action to restrict the sharing. I didn’t even notice the change for months. If these companies really cared about security, the defaults would be rolled out the other way.

If you are a Yahoo user and you use their Contacts feature, here’s how to lock the program back down:

  1. Log onto your Yahoo Mail account.
  2. Click the Contacts tab at top left.
  3. Click the Tools dropdown and select ‘Seeing Updates from …’
  4. For a full lockdown, uncheck both the master settings at the top of the screen (‘Share my Updates’ and ‘See Updates in Yahoo Mail’)

If you like the sharing but want to restrict it to the people you are actually close with (rather than every random business contact that you’ve ever added to your Blackberry), go through the list and select the ‘Stop Getting Updates’ at the right of the contact’s name. You can also get a little more granular control using the ‘Manage my Updates’ link near the top left of the page. But blocking everything is easier.

The Yahoo Calendar also has some Sharing settings but since I don’t use their calendar feature, I don’t have good advice for how to lock it down. Any suggestions from people who do use it?

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