You really can't avoid social media if you're a small business owner. I mean, why would you?

Well, sometimes it's easy to feel like hiding. The ever-present stalking and data tracking by many social network sites--even by sites that promote themselves as "private"--can feel incredibly invasive, and companies seem to lose swaths of user data with startling frequency. For an entrepreneur this issue isn't just a question of personal privacy. It's an issue of of protecting valuable private business information.

"The fight to control your personal and professional data can feel uphill," says privacy expert and entrepreneur Mark Weinstein. "People say that privacy is dead. But we're entrepreneurs; we'll always want freedom and the right to privacy is a fundamental."

Fortunately, there is a growing suite of options for overwhelmed small business owners who are looking to escape the Internet fishbowl and organize their life. Weinstein is the founder and CEO of, a free, all-in-one social media dashboard that is on the forefront of the fight against online stalking, tracking, and data scraping. (He is also a member of the Online Trust Alliance and an Advisory Board member of the Future of Privacy Forum.)

According to Weinstein, tracking cookies can show up just about everywhere online today.

"The Internet has become like a camera that follows you around wherever you go. Frankly, It's pretty creepy," he says. "We don't want a camera in our living room, our kitchen, or our bedroom. So why would we want one that follows us around online?"

Weinstein has these suggestions for business owners who want to take control of their personal and professional lives:

1. Know the problem.
"Cookies are everywhere, and companies are constantly getting better at obtaining and using your personal data for their benefit. Some of your most frequented sites are the biggest offenders," says Weinstein. Social media monolith Facebook recently came under fire for acquiring, a facial tracking and identification service, and Google strayed far from its "Don't Be Evil" roots when it modified its privacy policy to allow for tracking users across all its services."If you're not nervous, you're not paying attention," he says.

2. Identify solutions.
"A little awareness goes a long way, and there are some pretty painless fixes to many privacy issues," Weinstein says. Consider using a program such as Abine, which blocks a lot of common Web tracking, bumping up your browser's overall privacy settings, and switching to social media platforms such as Sgrouples, which have built in privacy protections.

3. Make it easy.
"Your life is hard enough as it is, we want to be safe but we don't want to add complexity," he says. Look for platforms that integrate a wide range of services into one simple package, simplifying your company's point of entry and exposure. Social media aggregators and free intranet services are a great place to start.

Published on: Aug 1, 2012
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