Friday, May 21, 2010

Internet Privacy

While putting private information on the internet has become more and more common, measures to protect that privacy have not. As I’m sure many of you have heard in the news by now, Facebook’s privacy policies have recently been brought back into question. With some recent changes allowing Facebook to share information with third party websites in order to better advertise things to you, a great number of people are angry and plan to abandon or protest the site. In fact, May 31st is Quit Facebook Day, and a Facebook Protest has been set for June 6th. After reading about Facebook’s changes, I noticed that my privacy settings had been changed so anyone who wanted to could find out my hometown, read about my interests, find out who my siblings are, etc. I was shocked – I keep just about everything on my profile private and I never would have thought to re-check my settings had I not read this article alerting me to the fact that Facebook had gone as far as to change my settings so I had to "opt-out" once again.

Facebook is not the only major website out there that has collected and/or used information you provide them in a potentially compromising way. Just a few short years ago AOL released information about people’s search histories in a way that made the individuals easy to identify. Google has also compromised privacy a number of times, memorably with the release of Google Buzz, but more recently for collecting a large amount of data via Wi-Fi networks around the world.

There are some out there who say that simply not posting personal information will provide people with a sufficient level of privacy protection. However, if you make an online purchase, it is highly likely that data has been kept and stored by that company. If you use Netflix, your viewing history has been kept and stored. If you like the recommendations Amazon provides you, those, along with the info used to come up with them, are kept and stored too. Not to mention that if you have a Facebook account, you have already agreed that anything you post there may be stored and kept, even after you remove the information.

While these individual bits of info may not be terribly compromising, when put in tandem with the info you have provided to other websites, it could become so. Particularly in the face of this article from The Economist, it is pretty clear that an extremely large amount of information is being collected and stored by large corporations which are actively seeking the latest technologies and professionals to eventually analyze it and use it to their advantage. What all of this means currently is still unclear, but one thing’s for certain, just about everyone could use some good information on internet privacy:


The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor, and Privacy on the Internet

Googling Security: How Much Does Google Know About You?

Privacy: The Lost Right

Securing Privacy in the Internet Age

Using the Internet Safely for Seniors for Dummies


De-Anonymizing Social Networks
The authors of this article found that even when Twitter and Flickr accounts were stripped of their identifying information, those people could still be identified 30% of the time by correlations examined in various accounts.

Deleting Your Facebook Account (FAQ), CNET
A FAQ about how to delete or deactivate your Facebook account

Facebook Privacy: 8 Ways to Protect Yourself
Complete with handy slideshow detailing exactly where to go on Facebook to change your privacy settings.

GetNetWise: Privacy
A guide to protecting your priavcy online

How to Quit Facebook Without Actually Quitting Facebook, Lifehacker
Interesting post from the popular blog, Lifehacker, on ways to protect your privacy on Facebook without deleting yourself entirely.

How to Stop Worrying About Privacy and Love Facebook, PC World
A good article on the privacy changes Facebook has made.

Predicting Social Security Numbers from Private Data
The authors were of this artcile were able to accurately predict all 9 digits of Social Security numbers for about 5 million people in the United States. They were able to do this only using information on the public record.

Tech Secrets: 21 Things ‘They’ Don’t Want You to Know, PC World
This is a very interesting article about the different ways information transmitted via the internet is collected and the ways you can protect yourself.

The Tell-All Generation Learns When Not To, at Least Online, New York Times
Article noting that despite public perception, it is typically younger people that are most proactive about protecting personal information.

White House and Google: Cozy as Charged, Fortune
Detailing the close relationship between Google and the US government


Anonymous said...

What a list of reading to do! You left out what makes me most nervous: access to bank accounts. My bank recently debited my checking account for somebody else's car insurance. (And man does he pay through the nose!) It was a typo, but it should have been caught because nobody anywhere along the line could have had my password. It was all entered into the secure network nice and neat and pretty, but entirely wrong.

Our money isn't even paper anymore, it's just flashes of electricity. I'm not so worried that they'll aim ads at me as I am they'll snatch my flashes.

Ragged Robin said...

That's a crazy story! I had never thought of money that way, but I think you're right...