Your privacy is a joke.

26 Nov

laptop-privacy-1 For the average internet user, privacy is an expectation but not a reality.  They share family photos on Facebook, quasi-interesting non-sequiturs on Twitter, business info on LinkedIn, video preferences on YouTube, personal opinions on blogs, and on and on and on.  The whole time thinking that this is only going to be seen by a select few, when in reality it is saved in multiple locations, forever available to anyone with the basic skills to search for it.  And with the way that Google is developing, the ability to search for information on anyone gets easier every day.

Should this matter to you? 

Well, yes.  At the risk of sounding like a tin-foil hat wearing conspiracy theorist, I think a persons internet research topics are best left private.  If you find out that your grandpa has been searching for gay porn uhm, topics that interest him much more than they interest you, your relationship is potentially going to be damaged.  Privacy should be a right instead of an unfulfilled expectation.

Between Google Streetview, targeted Facebook advertising,  and Web 3.0, your relationship with the internet is becoming increasingly intimate.

How long until we have to worry about this?

Well, the future is already here.  There are increasingly more frequent cases of insurance claims being terminated after posting vacation pics on Facebook, employees being terminated after Facebooking while home sick, or the wrong email sent to the wrong person

How often have you received, or sent, an email to the wrong address?  Usually this is mundane, but there are more and more times where sensitive information is being sent via email.  Just today, I got a nice e-card from someone in the states wishing me a happy thanksgiving.  I sent a note back to thank her, informing her that she is either really late or really early, on her well wishes.  But this same email account garners me sales receipts from stores in the states, date/time of my next scheduled tune up on a car I don’t own, in a state I don’t live in, and my personal favorite – conference call invite and login information for a Hollywood production company.  (I’m saving that info for a rainy day!)  I get all of this information because they forget to add a “.” in the email addy.

So how does it work?

If I am researching a new client, potential supplier, or business opportunity, I will start on Google, cross reference it with Facebook and LinkedIn, add a smattering of Twitter, and then just feast on the cornucopia (wow – full of turkey day references today!) of information that I uncover.  I do this to learn more, and potentially gain a competitive advantage for myself and my employers.

But if I wanted to use this information to find out when you were away on holidays, when your kids were left home alone, or when you were secretly looking for another job – this information could be used for much more Machiavellian purposes.

You need to start thinking about what you are posting online as a permanent, archiveable, dataset about who you are, what you think, what you believe, and what you like/dislike about everything. 

Your privacy is a joke, but is it that important?  If no one has privacy, is it a level playing field?  The problem with this thought process is we won’t know until it’s gone, and by then it’ll be too late to do anything about it.


11 Responses to “Your privacy is a joke.”

  1. Kathreen November 26, 2009 at 2:09 pm #

    I don’t think we emphasize the importance of discretion when communicating online because many people regard the internet as a playground rather than a permanent record of everything said and posted. What are some informative sites that can offer more awareness about this topic?

  2. Crystal November 26, 2009 at 2:41 pm #

    Very well worded. This should be required reading for everyone who dabbles in the online experience. Too many ‘status updates’ give me more information than I really want about a person, and I’d be lying to myself if I didn’t admit to being guilty of divulging too much or generally being inappropriate after a few glasses of wine. See, there I go again.

    Now, could you be comissioned to write a piece on cell phone etiquitte?

  3. jasonfinnerty November 26, 2009 at 3:09 pm #

    Kathreen – maybe the next post will focus on some ways to create awareness/offer tips to keep what’s left of your privacy

    Crystal – wine often results in inappropriateness, but usually this is forgotten (or they grow old enough to move out on their own) – but with the intertubes, it’s never gone, and never forgotten.
    Pretty sure i’m not the right person to write about cell phone etiquette 🙂

  4. Danica November 26, 2009 at 3:30 pm #

    the internetz will STEAL YOUR SOUL LIKE IT DID MINE!!
    No, you’re not the right person to write about any kind of etiquette, in any shape or form.

  5. Matt Sims November 26, 2009 at 5:19 pm #

    Good post Jason, a topic I get a kick out of just because people are so conflicted on it.

    Privacy in our new connected society is an illusion. If you don’t want something repeated (in any context), don’t say it. Personally I’m OK with the new way, and here’s why.

    I think transparency will eventually empower us as citizens more than it will hurt us. I’m willing to let the world see me for what I am, first, because I don’t have (much) to hide, but more importantly because it allows me to better see the world.

    This transparency is uncovering plenty of political and business shenanigans which we’d never have seen before, and that helps me pick better friends, and companies to do business with.


  6. jasonfinnerty November 26, 2009 at 8:09 pm #

    Thanks Matt, it’s a pretty sensitive topic.

    I would like to think that the transparency will result in an equal playing field, but with the advantages available to those that know where to find them – this will never be the case.

    IP masking/spoofing, trojans, DoS drones, VPN’s and more can allow those that want to hide something be successful, while the average oblivious user is unarmed to protect themselves.

    I don’t think it’s about having something to hide, but do you really need everyone to know EVERYTHING about you? Your juvenile diabetes, your allergy to legumes, or your affinity for LOLCats – do you need/want future employers/customers/suitors to know this about you?

    yes – apparently my tin foil hat is getting a bit tight tonight…

    Don’t get me wrong – i am a huge fan of the sharing of knowledge and the benefits of transparency, but I think like any other computer system, there are ways around it for those that have the inclination.


  7. mama November 26, 2009 at 8:09 pm #

    I am conflicted by all of this because i really think that Matt has a real point when he speaks of transparency. I have always been confused by the right to privacy and the rights of the common. Too many times crimes that affect us all can be covered up with these same rights.
    I just listened as I typed this, to the news reports of debit card frauds that are happening at the moment. One woman stated with absolute confidence that she would ‘just hide my pin #’ . LOL were it only that simple.
    I need to learn much more about the privacy issues and appreciate both the article and the comments.

  8. dmsteffe4705 November 26, 2009 at 8:22 pm #

    I believe this issue will remain as an abstract concept to many as posting to the internet is an optional practice. As hard as it would be for me to delete my facebook account and my blog It is possible for me to live without it and perhaps feel a little better about my privacy.

    Of course, as you helpfully pointed out, we now have Google streetview photographing my town, my neighborhood and the front of my house against my opinions on the matter… so the battle with the transparency of our lives seem to never end.

  9. jasonfinnerty November 26, 2009 at 10:42 pm #

    Wow dmsteffe – did i cause a call to action?

    clicking on your handle says:

    The authors have deleted this blog. The content is no longer available.

    hope your facebook account is ok 🙂

  10. Mark Myles November 27, 2009 at 12:14 am #

    Sounds good, Jason.

    I do the same as far as research on people…I mean…its all there…and we put it there!

    Privacy? Its almost as if we don’t actually want privacy.

    Today, we are using more and more online social networking and are less and less involved in real-life community. We are subconsciously trying to connect in accountable and authentic ways with people, but its not working.

    So, there’s no doubt in my mind that it will only get worse and will eventually either find a breaking point or people will (now I will show my cards) recognize that we were created to long for a be a part of real community.


  11. Beth Terry November 28, 2009 at 11:34 am #

    Absolutely spot-on. And our kids really don’t get it. Legions of young job seekers losing a position because of a facebook or myspace photo. What I’ve always wondered is — those Girls Gone Wild movies… won’t those women grow up some day? Will those ads still be shown 10 years from now? (bootie pics are bootie pics, no matter when they were taken!) Will some 7 year old suddenly call out “MOMMY! Isn’t that YOU on TV?”

    Seriously, though, this does need to be said about once a day. All of us post things (like THIS post… hmmmmm) that we may not want the whole world to see. Oops. Too late.

    For searching, though, I use not that I’m searching for anything more spurious than interesting quotes to Tweet or Blog about… but, just on principle, I try to stay away from the “Big G”

    Now YOU go click on MY blog and we’ll help each other’s stats!

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