Lately there has been a lot of angst about internet privacy. This came to a head when Facebook changed some privacy settings which angered some users who believed that they had a right to privacy with stuff they shared on the site. Some folks ever started a movement called QuitFacebookDay.com over it.
As a person who does internet development, a long time blogger, and someone who “gets the internet,” I just wanted to give you a reality check.
I don’t want to scare you, but here is a snapshot of the data “we the internet people” collect from you every single day. We don’t do much with this… but we collect this information:
- Every time you Google something, Google logs that. They know what you search, what you clicked on– Google is, by far, the largest repository of user data anywhere.
- Every time you make a phone call, your cell phone company knows who you called, where you called from, and how long you talked.
- If you have a GPS enabled smart phone, your cell phone company knows your exact location any time its turned on whether you are actively using it or not.
- Your IP and MAC addresses are logged by every website you’ve ever visited. The sites servers know how many times you’ve been there, how long you stayed, and what you looked at. Even free Google Analytics tools can show any website owner this information.
- Everything you post on Twitter or Facebook (or WordPress or Blogger) belongs to them, not you. Since it is their property they can do whatever they want with it. Every message, every picture, everything you like, everything you direct message.
- Any time you purchase something from an online retailer, they collect even more information. They know that other stuff about your browsing history, plus they know what you buy, how often you buy, your shipping and billing address, what category of stuff you like to look at, on and on. The only part of the transaction that they can’t really do anything with is your credit card number.
- If you store documents online, an administrator could access that information, if they wanted or needed to.
If you don’t see https: (the “s” means that the area of the site is certified as secure by someone like VeriSign. Of course, certified and verified as such are two different things.) in the address bar, you shouldn’t have any perception of privacy.
Whatever you do online is somehow public
What is interesting to me about the privacy concerns is that the stuff that people are worried about– is typically happening in real life! Don’t want future employers to see you dancing on a table while intoxicated? Sheesh, don’t blame Facebook for that, blame your drunk self! Don’t want one group of people to know something about you? Don’t talk about it on Twitter!
The irony of the privacy concerns is that people have willingly agreed to the terms of service and have willingly posted content to websites that they now don’t want put in the public.
It makes me gigle. No one ever told you this was private, you just thought it was.
There is no such thing as “internet privacy.”
It’s about ethics
The opposite of compartmentalism
When I was a high school student, youth pastors preached about the ills of compartmentalism all the time. The irony is that todays privacy-free society has those same people crying for just a little compartmentalization!
My recommendation is not to flee. It’s to live an honest and transparent life. If you live in a way where you have nothing to hide than your level of privacy is rather innocuous.
But the opposite is also true, as well. If you are going places you ought not go or doing things you know are naughty… you are just building up the evidence against yourself. Somewhere someone already knows. And everything you are doing leaves a breadcrumb to your future embarrassment.