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January 7, 2009

Privacy

Filed under: General,Perspective — Tags: , , , — Bryan @ 9:49 pm

This all brings us to my last point…

Don’t ever assume that anything you express on the Internet is private. Be it e-mail, web forums, IP based phone calls, anything. As the world becomes more connected and employers, governments and others feel the need to monitor you as a risk (warranted or not), you will have less privacy in your life. In fact you have less privacy now than you could ever possibly suspect. Consider the little intrusions such as how banks now monitor your Debit/Credit card activity with automated systems that do predictive analysis of your spending behavior and if something goes outside the prediction curve your card will be blocked or you will get a phone call from a CSR (phone rep) to verify that it really is you buying a new high-end TV on your debit card mid pay cycle. This is all done in order to reduce fraud and protect your money… but none-the-less, we are all subject to it already.

And worse yet, if there is money to made from that data, it is often already being sold to other companies who cross reference it with other data to figure out the optimal time to send you promotional offers in the mail. You may think I’m being cynical but this type activity is old news. Here is a good resource site to start you off on the subject, specifically this document “Customer Acquisition and Data Mining“. Here’s a quote:

“More complicated overlays are also possible. Customers can be matched against purchase, response, and other detailed data that the data vendors collect and refine. This data comes from a variety of sources including retailers, state and local governments, and the customers themselves. If you are mailing out a car accessories catalog, it might be useful to overlay information (make, model, year) about any known cars that people on the prospect list might have registered with their department of motor vehicles.”

Also, as I mentioned previously MySpace, LinkedIn, FaceBook and others allow third parties to review your account data and private, protected pages all the time without any kind of legal overview. You agreed to it when you (often carelessly) pressed the “I agree” button when you created your account. In fact just about every online service you’ve ever signed up with probably has a clause in the EULA/Terms & Conditions about sharing your personal information which you agreed to when you checked that box and hit submit.

Beyond that, you should always remember that everything you do on the Internet or an Intranet is recorded in some manner. Take for instance the simple (and default) behavior of a web server recording a log of every file it delivers and the IP address of every computer that the file was delivered to. It is how the owner of that log file handles the data that they store that ultimately impacts your privacy, hence some of the rules that have been fiercely debated across Europe regarding this very subject. Just this last October (2008) yet another ruling occurred in Germany indicating that an IP address is not personal data. I’m sure next month it will change again.

Additionally, new ways are always being invented to index and parse the web. It’s only a matter of time before either archive.org or some other company working with them develops a way to perform web searches across their database. Then that long gone web site where you thoroughly embarrassed yourself may come back to life and become discoverable again some day in the future.

In regards to modern technology, the idea of Privacy is nothing more than a quaint religion at this point in history and to bring this all full circle to the persona issue (now that I’ve completely scared you to death in the process) remember this… if your doing something online that you don’t want the whole world to know about, then maybe you shouldn’t be doing it.

…sounds like advice from Grandma…

[read the other parts of this series: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5]

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3 Comments

  1. I found your site on Google and read a few of your other entires. Nice Stuff. I’m looking forward to reading more from you.

    Comment by Dan Waldron — January 7, 2009 @ 10:17 pm

  2. Hi,

    I’m just getting started with my new blog. Would you want to exchange links on our blog-rolls?

    BTW – I’m up to about 100 visitors per day.

    Comment by Dan Waldron — January 7, 2009 @ 11:16 pm

  3. Nah, I’m keeping my blog-rolls fairly limited for now. But thanks for asking.

    Comment by Bryan — January 8, 2009 @ 12:19 am

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