Where’s my information and where is it going? Quite a normal query, but can you answer the question when you provide information to an employer, a prospective employer, a vendor or service provider? Most of us would have a difficult time doing so, but that need not be the case.

Prior to providing your personal data in a website form, it behooves you to understand how the information will be handled and shared. Make it your business to know how your information will be protected (How secure is my information?) and who will be able to see your information (How private is my information?).  You accomplish this by reviewing two documents which are available on most websites – the terms of service and the privacy statement/policy. A word of warning, in many cases these documents are purposefully dense in legalese and the level of verbosity high.

Terms of Service/Use:  The Terms of Service (TOS) articulates the “agreement” between you and the service provider, the owner of the site. The document may contain a brief overview of what is contained in the TOS and then continue with explanations on distinct areas such as: ownership, warranty, liability, recourse, security, and the like. Within ClearanceJobs.com, the document is called “Terms of Use Agreement – ClearanceJobs”.

Privacy Policy/Statement:  The privacy statement details for you the type of information collected by the website, be it implicitly or explicitly provided. On ClearanceJobs, the privacy policy is called ClearanceJobs.com Privacy Policy”. The document is written in plain english and contains a number of sections, two that are apropos to our discussion are those areas which detail “The information we gather” and “How we use (and do not use) the information we gather.” It is explicit in the understanding that if a job seeker posts his/her resume on the site it will be seen by ClearanceJobs customers on a confidential basis only.

What of those websites with less than crystal clear TOS or Privacy Policies? I advocate the use of the CTRL-F or CMD-F when in the document. Search within the document for the word “Share” and as you sequence through you will note that immediately in proximity to the word “share”, “shares” or “shared” will be the answer to how your information is provided to third parties.  Do the same with the word “Use” and as you sequence through, you will note how the information is used by the entity and their partners.

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Christopher Burgess (@burgessct) is an author and speaker on the topic of security strategy. Christopher, served 30+ years within the Central Intelligence Agency. He lived and worked in South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Central Europe, and Latin America. Upon his retirement, the CIA awarded him the Career Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the highest level of career recognition. Christopher co-authored the book, “Secrets Stolen, Fortunes Lost, Preventing Intellectual Property Theft and Economic Espionage in the 21st Century” (Syngress, March 2008). He is the founder of securelytravel.com