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Privacy Data Storage

The Good and Bad of Data Collection 146

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the look-who's-watching dept.
Nephilium writes "Reason magazine has dedicated their latest issue to a discussion of privacy and data collection. They sent subscribers a customized cover of the magazine [as previously covered on Slashdot]. Some good points as to the benefits and drawbacks of who is sharing your information." The sample targeted advertisements are for non-profit organizations, but it may not be long until someone figures out how much companies will pay to utilize this sort of targeting.
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The Good and Bad of Data Collection

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  • Good (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ibpooks (127372) on Thursday May 27, 2004 @05:41PM (#9271800) Homepage

    The sample targeted advertisements are for non-profit organizations, but it may not be long until someone figures out how much companies will pay to utilize this sort of targeting.

    I'd much rather have ads sent to me about things that I might actually want or be interested in. For example, sending feminine hygine ads to me is a waste of their time and mine.

    • How'bout NO ADS (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 27, 2004 @05:42PM (#9271816)
      Imagine that..... wanting to buy something, going to the store, and picking the damned thing out YOURSELF, instead of people pushing stuff at you 24/7 ..... now there's a concept..
      • Re:How'bout NO ADS (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Carnildo (712617) on Thursday May 27, 2004 @06:17PM (#9272086) Homepage Journal
        Maybe if the ads coming at me are targeted, I'll see fewer of them. The current "shotgun" approach certainly does nothing to keep the total number of ads down.

        (on a side note, if advertisers got serious about targeted ads, people like you, who don't respond well to ads wouldn't get any)
        • Re:How'bout NO ADS (Score:4, Insightful)

          by janbjurstrom (652025) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <raeenoni>> on Thursday May 27, 2004 @07:04PM (#9272460)
          In a best-case scenario, that might happen.

          But isn't the problem that if/when targeted advertising - if 'Real Ultimate Precision Advertising' (RUPA) is possible - it would simply become the new "entry-level"? (I.e. nolonger a competitive advantage; not an edge but a requirement.)

          It immediately becomes the new status quo (as the "shotgun approach" is today), and every company looking to stand out - and they all want/have to - must now do RUPA plus X, and Y, and Z, and ...

          And marketing people know, as well as we do in all honesty, that everybody responds to advertising - in one form or another. Perhaps today not so much to regular 'ads' (as in TV commercials, or ads in a magazine), but if not that, then to product placements, or celebrity spokespersons, or sponsorships, or viral marketing, or astroturfing-word-of-mouth campaigns, or ...

          So my fear is, that we won't se less ads/marketing ploys, but more - only they will be targeted to our specific 'profiles'... Advertisers certainly have the will/need and budgets for it to happen.
        • Re:How'bout NO ADS (Score:3, Interesting)

          by andy landy (306369)
          Once upon a time, I was looking for somewhere to buy some new PC hardware (I live in the UK). I went out and bought a copy of Micro Mart [micromart.co.uk]. A publication that is probably >80% adverts, all for online computer retailers. I bought it for the ads and discovered many retailers and got some components at a really good price -- I paid ~UK1.00 for some adverts! So, where does this fit into the grand scheme of things?
      • Re:How'bout NO ADS (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Rorschach1 (174480) on Thursday May 27, 2004 @06:19PM (#9272100) Homepage
        And how much are you going to pay for a magazine or newspaper if it's not supported by advertisers?

        And looking at my latest Circuit Cellar, I see a full-page add for a PSoC device that looks pretty cool, and that I wouldn't have known about otherwise. And 'going to the store' to browse for this sort of thing is pretty much out of the question.

        Now, if I could replace every feminine hygene ad I see with one for an embedded device C compiler, PC-based oscilloscope, or something else that actually interests me, that'd be great.
        • Re:How'bout NO ADS (Score:5, Informative)

          by NoMoreNicksLeft (516230) <john...oyler@@@comcast...net> on Thursday May 27, 2004 @06:33PM (#9272207) Journal
          Lamer. Real geeks read Nuts & Volts. ;-)

          I also must admit I've never once disliked the ads in those magazines, I could even truthfully say I buy them as much for the ads as anything else. But the truth is, no one gets rich in marketing letting people know about products they would already want. So this stuff about "if they only had more data, they'd target us" is bullshit. They'll still be trying to sell you a subscription to GQ, the latest fashion deoderant, and GM sports car.
        • And how much are you going to pay for a magazine or newspaper if it's not supported by advertisers?

          There's only one thing I like better than ice fishing [csbruce.com]..
          ..and that's sitting at home with my computer and a Transactor Magazine.

          Now 95% Ad Free! [csbruce.com]

      • We should be so lucky. I'm always hearing about some new way marketers have found to intrude, and am frequently appalled. Houston billboards covering the whole sky are bad enough (this cloud brought to you by Clear Channel and 107.5 theBuzz), but each new marketing technique is just another invasion to me. Telemarketers have ruined the usefulness of phone books, as everyone drops their land lines, or keeps them unlisted. Popups, motion video ads, and SPAM are doing the same to the 'net.

        And how about the ma

    • That explains that smell.
    • I for one am quite happy to receive penis enlargement emails. Currently, I am simply HUGE, but I hope to become GARGANTUAN. In fact, I've been looking into a Soul on Ice codpiece (Eldridge Cleaver's fashion line, "a Cleaver sleeve," he called it.) Speaking of data collection, there's an article in the NYT says that a survey of federal agencies has found more than 120 programs that collect and analyze large amounts of personal data on individuals to predict their behavior (not including classified projects.
      • by nwbvt (768631)
        See if I got truely personalized ads, I wouldn't get anything about penis enlargement.

        And if any of you moderators even think about moding that "Funny"...

  • Targeted Content (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ePhil_One (634771) on Thursday May 27, 2004 @05:41PM (#9271804) Journal
    I'm more concerned about when publications will start publishing customized content, So that Rush Limbaugh thinks MagA is a conservative read, and Ralph Nader thinks its a left wing read.

    Double your readership ;)

    • Re:Targeted Content (Score:5, Interesting)

      by PsychoFurryEwok (467266) on Thursday May 27, 2004 @05:45PM (#9271838)
      That's actually a really interesting concept. With us being able to use computers to print out something different on each page, they could just set it up to run through their list of subscribers...use feedback to customize the magazine for them. Brings up another issue though...now you're forcing everyone to see something as only one sided. :)
    • by LostCluster (625375) * on Thursday May 27, 2004 @05:46PM (#9271850)
      I think at the end of the day Rush and Ralph would get together and swap copies if that ever started happening.

      If you're in the business of being a political pundit, you want to read everything you can so you can talk about it. You need to see the opinions you disagree with too so you can start thinking of the ways to call those people wrong.
      • Al Franken's next book after that started...
        "Lying Liars and the Lies they targeted at Me", or something like that.
      • by eln (21727) on Thursday May 27, 2004 @05:52PM (#9271905) Homepage
        Well, maybe if you're in the business of being a fair political pundit. The vast majority (certainly the loudest) pundits these days make their living by selling their own point of view, and loudly denouncing the other side without ever understanding or even knowing about their arguments. It's a lot easier to claim the other side is always wrong because theyre a bunch of "stinking liberals" or "fat cat conservatives" rather than actually trying to come up with arguments against what the other side is actually saying.

        Political discourse these days isn't about debate, it's about volume, both in terms of quantity and decibel level.
        • The vast majority (certainly the loudest) pundits these days make their living by selling their own point of view, and loudly denouncing the other side without ever understanding or even knowing about their arguments.
          I think you have been listening to the wrong pundits.
        • -----
          Political discourse these days isn't about debate, it's about volume, both in terms of quantity and decibel level.
          -----
          Political correctness fostered this. Good proof hurts feelings. Hurt feelings results in witch hunts and lynchings. Since no one wants to be targeted nobody bothers to put together a good argument which exposes the core issues. Anyone who does think deeply enough to expose the core issues is summarily dismissed as a paranoid conspiracy theorist. If that person continues their tren
      • If you're in the business of being a political pundit, you want to read everything you can so you can talk about it. You need to see the opinions you disagree with too

        Personally I think that EVERYONE should do this. Even if you don't agree or even fully understand what you are reading, as long as it has *some* relevant information, I think its important to hear other ideas. Otherwise you are pigeon holing yourself without fully exploring other possbilities.

        It really seems obvious, but how many people d
      • Unless you're on Fox, in which case you just have to shout and be rude.
    • Re:Targeted Content (Score:5, Interesting)

      by deputydink (173771) on Thursday May 27, 2004 @06:09PM (#9272026)
      Speaking of magazines, about 10 years ago i used to work for a magazine wholesaler. Investments decided to sell the circulation information, and I was put in charge of the data-mining.


      Apparently, if you know what kind of magazines are being sold in an area, you can assemble an accurate picture of the area's demographic, and use it to gauge market opportunites and stock management. For instance, high volumes of mens magazines begin sold in an area suggests it may be a good idea to open a Sporting goods store, conversely, a Department Store could infer that a lot of bridal and family magazines mean its time to stock baby strollers and family basics. The list went on and on, and even included municipal politians.


      Due to constaints imposed by Canadian Privacy laws (i think), were not able to actually sell the quantity of any particular title, instead, we had to aggregate the titles into "subject categories" like Young Mens, Young Womens, Sport, Hobby, etc etc.


      The markting agency that bought the information spent waaaaaaay more than i ever could have expected that information to be worth, and my technical liason was very bright, and had a very large (relatively) IT/Engineering group, so i figure they must have had a pretty slick set up. And, i just checked, they are still in business.


      Interesting use of targeted content, i hadn't though of that project in years till reading this thread.

    • by feepness (543479)
      This already happens to a large extent. People can self-select their own outlet from among the multide of news sources, and therefore do not EVER get the full story... just the one they like.

      Thus the further polarization of American politics.
      • ...forums so much. You get every POV imaginable, and if it's a good forum, links-a-plenty to go check out. Keeps you from becoming stilted and narrow minded. It's MUCH better to at least be talking *with* someone, even arguing, then to be in a "me-too" only place where all you do is talk *about* "the other guys". Politics in particular, with news being a sub class of that obviously.
    • Sinister applications aside, targeting a magazine for a specific reader could be pretty good idea. How many magazines do you get that you actually read cover to cover? Personally, I would appreciate a magazine that could leave out the sections I never read and give me the content I'm interested in.

      Picture a news magazine that could focus on current events in a reader's area along with the national news or leave out the style section for someone who couldn't care less.
    • Re:Targeted Content (Score:2, Interesting)

      by blingbing (781894)
      Or MagA can stay with Rush, but spin off a MagB for Ralph Nader. Trageted content is nothing new, it's already done in Cable and radio. Thank Fox News and CNN, Rush Limbaugh and Al Franken. They have their targeted audience, and they profit plenty if they can keep their audience, there is no need to be "fair and balanced".

      Even within the same TV channel, targeted programming is a well-established practice. NBC has "Friends" for the coveted 18-35 age group, "Frasier" for 35 and above, "Queer eyes" for gay

      • True targeted TV will arrive when you turn it on and it only plays what you want.

        Oh wait, that would be TiVO...nevermind. I suppose when that is some type of standard in the box top itself...
      • Frasier was for 35+? Gosh, we must have been weird in college--we watched it religiously when we were 20. Frasier, Buffy and Simpsons: the staples of fin de siecle college TV.
    • This is very unlikely because it simply isn't profitable.

      In order to produce a magazine that caters either to left or right wingers depending on the viewer you have to do all the work to create two differnt magazines (which I am using to include web publications). Now why not just produce two magazines? People like being able to tell their friend to go look at a certain article, if content changes for the viewer they can't do this anymore making this sort of operation strictly less profitable than two se
      • Re:Targeted Content (Score:2, Interesting)

        by toganet (176363)
        Yes, except in the case where you already publish noth magazines (like my employer). Then it is a matter of developing some third magazine 'Brand', and marketing it as a targeted "best of our content" publiscation.
    • So if I got the right-sided (Republican) issue of this supposed political rag, would the advertisements be for left-sided (Democratic) political candidates? After all, I've supposedly already resigned myself to the right-sided candidates. And vice versa. It would be really strange if that were the case (kinda funny to think of Limnbaugh reading a magazine full of Kerry ads :-)

      Whatever side of a particular issue I tend to be on, I like to see the other side. Because sometimes I want to refute the other side
  • I agree, there is almost no privacy in the US for this sort of thing. But if you have already given your information to be hoarded in databases, and cross linked with other databases, then there is little one can do to regain their privacy.

    Wired Magazine a year or so ago, I remember, had a page on how to regain privacy. Some of those tips included:
    - Gaining access to a fake SSN
    - Not using a Cell phone
    - Never using a credit card
    - Do not have a mortgage

    Something most Americans are incapable of doing without moving to the woods and living off the land.
    • Check out the Privacy Song [ampcast.com] by Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie.
    • When it comes down to it, credit's a tool that's most certainly worth using. If you have a good-looking credit record built up at this point, there are lenders willing to let you hold on to their money for close to a year right now with near-zero interest.

      True, it's a tool that lets the rich gets richer. However, if you're not so poor that you've spent money you can't repay in the past, you're considered rich enough to get to keep using that tool.
      • What wrong with the rich getting richer? I'm most certainly not one of the rich (poor grad student) but I'm in favor of everyone getting a higher standard of living including the rich.

        It is only a problem if the rich get richer at the expense of the poor. In the case of credit we are looking at a mechanism that lets the rich get richer while bettering all of society (financing lets people start stores and industry which improves everyone's lot)
        • The problem is that there's a fixed amount of money in circulation at any given time. For people to get richer, the money has to come from somewhere - if it doesn't, you've got crazy inflation to worry about.
    • And I'm not talking about those with prepaid minutes. There are some companies that offer flat rate, unlimited local calling, just like a land line, except wireless, and with no contracts. One such company is Cricket, in Memphis. $32 a month gets you the service after buying the phone at any Cricket store, or even Best Buy. Yeah, the activation CSR asks for a SSN, but it's very easy to give them a fake one (which is what I did), as well as giving them other fake info. You can pay in cash the month's service
      • My ex girlfriend used different Crickets to deal drugs. She would change them every few months. Then she got arrested for interstate checkfraud and her dad had to bail her out of everything to the tune of $16,000 or so. She also had her MSCE and CCNA...ah, the joys of her being a bipolar geek.
    • Something most Americans are incapable of doing without moving to the woods and living off the land.

      You say that like it's a bad thing. :)

      You better make it public land though. If you expect to have enough land of your own to live off of (you can do it with five acres, but you really want ten, half of it mature forest, half meadow) you'll likely need a mortgage. You'll certainly need to register a deed (which is public information).

      But you can actually "live off the land" fairly well in cities too. Citi
  • I've never seen any other magazine that's done this and must say it looks pretty awesome. Ummm...how did they get the satellite photo though? I thought the satellite photos were restricted to government only or corporations that owned their own satellites like television and phone companies...any information on how they did it? I want to be able to take pictures of my house. :)
    • Re:Cool! (Score:5, Informative)

      by ibpooks (127372) on Thursday May 27, 2004 @05:43PM (#9271827) Homepage
      TerraServer! [terraserver.com]
      • Wow. My privacy has officially been annihilated.
      • Re:Cool! (Score:2, Informative)

        by spandrel (783536)
        Actually, we used the terraserver images originally, but in the course of pre-publicity AirPhoto USA [airphotousa.com] contacted us and offered to let us use their aerial photos (where available) in conjunction with the public domain USGS files.

        In terms of geocoding, we didn't try to go in and find a home address. That's why people with subscriptions pointing to PO boxes got a photo of the post office or city center. Even when there was an home address, sometimes the geocoding (pulling lat/long info based on street addr
    • As stated on the page, it's not a satellite-it's just good old aerial flyover.
      • That sounds like it would be extremely expensive if not to do the flyover themselves but to even purchase a shot for each of their subscribers homes.
        • There are multiple arial flyover photographs available for every square foot of the United States. Guess what they use to make maps?
    • Satellite images (Score:2, Informative)

      by darenw (74015)
      http://daac.gsfc.nasa.gov/

      Gobs and gobs of satellite data are available here - i worked at a small company that made heavy use of this. Takes some effort to figure out all the gobbledygoop, but the effort is all it costs to get data.
  • Cold and unbiased... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LostCluster (625375) * on Thursday May 27, 2004 @05:43PM (#9271825)
    One thing the whole FICO-based credit system has working in its favor is that it is very truely blind. The decision maker doesn't get to look at you physically at all, it's not even a person anymore. Simply put, if the prediction formula gives you enough points you're accepted, and if it doesn't you're declined. Race, age, gender, religion, sexuality... who cares.

    Of course, the system isn't perfect, it's subject to GIGO just like any other computer system. However, compared to human decision making, it's a whole lot of a more fair process on the whole.
    • You may have a 800+ credit score (generally anything over 730 is considered excellent), but if you're applying for a mortgage, that loan application is still sent to the hands of a human underwriter. And by law, (as a morgagte broker anyways) we're required to fill out you Race, Ethnicicty & Sex. If you decide not to give that information, we're supposed to fill it in ourselves based on appearance, surname etc.

      From my experience as a mortgage broker, I've never seen and type of racism or dicrimination

  • Target for File 86 (Score:2, Interesting)

    by beatleadam (102396)
    They sent subscribers a customized cover of the magazine...The sample targeted advertisements are for non-profit organizations...

    What bothers me the most about this is not the notion of loss of privacy, it is loss of *Choice*. When I worked as the only IT Staff at a non-profit (coincedance noted) I wanted all the information I could get, in whatever format to try to make the best and (unfortunately) least-expensive solutions.

    This is just the biggest "brand" or brand name, being shoved down our throat
  • A Sat photo of my house I mean. I've been looking for sat image poster for a while now but all the available pics are from the 1980's. Anyone know who has recent sat images for sale? thanks
  • by secondsun (195377) <secondsun@gmail.com> on Thursday May 27, 2004 @05:47PM (#9271861) Journal
    While the magazine claimed to have my location it actually was a picture of my uncle's house half a mile down the road. Guess my privacy is safe for a while longer ;).
    • Click on the russnelson.com url just north of here, and you'll see how close they got to my house.
      -russ
    • Yeah.. right:

      1 Raid on the house in the picture looking for seconsun.

      2 Finding Uncle

      3 Interrogating Uncle using some torture (hey.. i didn't say it was officials raiding his house... o.. wait.. nvm...)

      "Seconsun live half a mile up the road" will probably be very quickly coming out of his mouth...
    • While the magazine claimed to have my location it actually was a picture of my uncle's house half a mile down the road. Guess my privacy is safe for a while longer ;).

      What's even scarier is that Reason says my location is supposedly the Guantanamo Bay Prison Camp. Hold on, there's someone banging on my front door. Back in a minu-
  • Fie (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Grrr (16449) <cgrrr@gRASPrrr.net minus berry> on Thursday May 27, 2004 @05:47PM (#9271863) Homepage Journal

    It's easy to complain about a subjective loss of privacy. It's more difficult to appreciate how information swapping accelerates economic activity. Like many other aspects of modern society, benefits are dispersed, amounting to a penny saved here or a dollar discounted there. But those sums add up quickly.

    There's almost the tone, here, that privacy and info-swapping are at odds with each other. What a shame.

    <grrr>
  • ashcroft's eyeball (Score:5, Informative)

    by morcheeba (260908) * on Thursday May 27, 2004 @05:49PM (#9271880) Journal
    Reason's cover [reason.com] didn't quite get ashcroft's house correctly. It should be this pic [cryptome.org] (or big 1800x1500 version [cryptome.org]). Not as scary when they know your work location and not your house.

    (from this cryptome eyeball [cryptome.org] - it is a lot of data since it covers 4 places, please don't slashdot)
    • ...didn't quite get ashcroft's house correctly

      Perhaps it's because they had this under the Ashcroft caption

      U.S. Justice Department in Washington, D.C.

    • with chinese embassy maps

      what, it was about terrorists right? who's taken away more of your freedom, bin laden or ashcroft?

  • by Lord Grey (463613) * on Thursday May 27, 2004 @05:51PM (#9271901)
    There are several aspects to the privacy issue relating to the purchase of products and services in America. As the article goes to great lengths to point out, information sharing is not necessarily a Bad Thing, particular if it leads to financial and time efficiencies.

    Because information sharing is pervasive (and getting more so as time goes by) we, as consumers, are caught in a bind: If we demand more privacy, the cost will go up; if we don't demand that privacy, abuse of the system will cause all sorts of problems, too many to list here. Of course, this is a problem only for people who care.

    Personally, I find myself caring about privacy in some cases and not in others. It's a trade off decision. What I want is the ability to protect my privacy when I do care, at the instant of the transaction with the merchant, even if I've dealt with that particular merchant in the past. In face-to-face transactions of low monetary value, I can use cash. But what about online transactions, or the purchase of more expensive items?

    What I'd like to have is an anonymous credit card. One that's tied to a "numbered account" somewhere, managed by an institution that cares only about its numbered accounts. Money is transferred into an account, and the institution pays the credit card bills for that account. Period. Given our cryptographic skills now, someone should be able to provide blind transfers that do the job nicely.

    Of course, this type of system could be abused. But it's a different kind of abuse, and my privacy is safe.

    • There is such a system right now. They're called prepaid credit cards. They're marketed in several different ways. Some convenience stores sell them right next to the prepaid cell phone cards targetting them at the people who can't get real credit cards because they've ruined their own credit history already. They're also seen at Simon-owned malls around the nation as what they're selling instead of selling traditional mall gift certificates now. Parents are pitched such cards as a way to establish a hard-l
      • There is such a system right now. They're called prepaid credit cards.

        You're right, of course. The prepaid cards exist and provide the anonymous transaction at the end, when they're used to purchase the final product/service, but they don't provide what I'm looking for at the beginning, when you buy the card itself.

        An anonymous purchase of a prepaid card means paying cash for it, face-to-face with a merchant. If I'm paying cash for the card, I might as well pay cash for the final product. Plus, unle

    • If we demand more privacy, the cost will go up

      In fact it is very well established that "loyalty" cards atually cause prices to rise [nocards.org] rather than fall.
      • In fact it is very well established that "loyalty" cards atually cause prices to rise rather than fall.

        Well established? You have to be kidding.

        There is no way people are going to willingly pay 50% more for their groceries consistently, yet that's what the "study" would have us believe.

        I mean seriously. You think people aren't going to notice the difference between $100 and $150 when they go shopping?

        If loyalty cards really made that big a difference in prices, any grocery store adopting such a program
    • you could get totally anon cards from some banks in the caribbean. I've seen them (well, one), they were blank on the back. Number on the front, zero name on them. The US feds got them busted,or outlawed or something, too many people were using them to hide money they claim. Or so I recall from the noooze. Sorry, can't remember an exact name of one of them right now, but I guy I met had one (it was a Visa) and showed it to me, tried to get me interested in them, but I passed, not a high roller here, they a
    • MBNA America allows you to generate a one-time use credit card number for a purchase. That way, even if the number is stolen, it can't be reused. I assume they have some sort of rotating pool with time windows on them.
  • two words: PO Box (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kaan (88626) on Thursday May 27, 2004 @05:54PM (#9271917)
    When they pull up the address of my PO Box, I'll just shrug it off. Sure, my mailing address information is shared left and right (and without my consent), but at least I have a layer of abstraction between my physical residence and the mailing address people associate with me, so this scare tactic stuff ("they know where you are!") won't matter. It will have to be changed to, "they know where your postal mail is delivered!".

    I first got a PO Box address in 2002, and the only thing I regret is that I didn't get one sooner. The UPS Store (formerly Mailboxes, Etc.) rents PO boxes out, too, and offer lots of other perks over the straight US Postal variety. For instance, you can call the store and ask them if you got any mail today, they'll check it and let you know, saving you the trip.
  • by MajorDick (735308) on Thursday May 27, 2004 @05:56PM (#9271930)
    PAY FRIGGN CASH, GREEN, Dead Presidents,

    Im serious, between paying cash where possible, that includes nearly EVERY local purchase, trade you key tags for grocery stores with your friends (as long as they arent valid for cashing checks)

    No tinfoil here I just cant stand direct marketing, why in the hell should I give Radio Shack my phone number, I actually had a clerk say they HAD to ge one, 555-1212 or 867-5309 (867 is a local extension here) is my answer most of the time they dont even blink although some chuckle

    Lay as low as possible, p[ay cash where possible and lie like hell when anyone asks any questions that could be used in targeted marketing.

    Dont forget they found one of the 911 conspirators by his grocery store key thingy
    • by jpetts (208163) on Thursday May 27, 2004 @06:29PM (#9272177)
      Dont forget they found one of the 911 conspirators by his grocery store key thingy

      I would be very careful about advocating ways to circumvent investigative techniques that are know to have led to the detention of terrorists or terrorist supporters. An unkind executive, legislative or judicial environment could easily make your life very unpleasant for this type of statement, and in Soviet Russia and/or Nazi Germany this sort of behaviour could easily lead to (and in Stalin's Russia, almost certainly WOULD have led to) execution. I know that the statement itself is devoid of malice, but not everybody would interpret it in the same way...
    • Sadly, that's not going to be good enough. You're on video surveilence, everywhere. I work for a car rental company, and if you're within one hundred feet of one of our locations, chances are we've got your face on file, and in pretty decent resolution, too. Pretty scary when you think about it. And if you wanted to escape that, you'd have to dress pretty conspicuously. That would just draw more attention to you as well.

      Video surveilence. It's everywhere. [infiltration.org]

    • No tinfoil here I just cant stand direct marketing ... trade you key tags for grocery stores with your friends

      So what you're saying is, instead of hearing from Radio Shack, you want to hear from Radio Shack AND Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Instead of getting coupons for Hungry Man you want them for Lean Cuisine and Tampax?

      I love direct marketing. Privacy is useful only for acts that are criminal, shameful, and romantic. If you're a criminal, you deserve it. If you're ashamed, get over it. And if it's pe
  • by cool_st_elizabeth (730631) on Thursday May 27, 2004 @06:10PM (#9272040)
    ... your medical history, but the people who transcribe your doctor's dictation ... these people may be doing the transcription in countries where the U.S. privacy laws are unenforceable. Consider the following scenario as detailed by David Lazarus in the San Francisco Chronicle on April 2, 2004: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/ch ronicle/archive/2004/04/02/MNGI75VIEB1.DTL
  • Didn't we have this exact story on Slashdot last month?
  • by Clod9 (665325) on Thursday May 27, 2004 @06:12PM (#9272053) Journal
    This whole article just looks at the privacy debate from the point of view of commercial interests. Of course they think information-sharing is a good thing, it cuts costs. Although the article concludes that this is great for consumers because it lowers prices...I don't believe it. I think it raises profits. What's more, I think it raises profits for large corporations while doing little to benefit locally-owned businesses.

    We have very little privacy any more, and it's time to take a stand on what's left.

    The most telling section was the description of how MBNA has benefited from information-sharing. How, if privacy advocates had their way, MBNA's profit model would be threatened. Well, you know what? I HATE MBNA! I detest them. They send me credit card applications continually, no matter what I do. I regularly return their postage-paid reply envelopes stuffed with whatever other trash comes in that day's mail, and if everyone else would do the same...maybe THAT would stop them. After all, who among us needs more credit? Are we not awash in it already?

    • Yeh, maybe it raises profits, but what happens to those profits? Do they just get sucked out of the economy to disappear, or do they eventually go back in? I think they would go back in eventually, when those rich fat cats pay their gardeners and maids and buy their new cars and all that stuff.

      Also, I think the amount of cool shit that can be bought with a dollar or two in the western world is pretty freaking amazing compared with most any time in the history of humans really. You can try and tell me o

      • Do they just get sucked out of the economy to disappear, or do they eventually go back in? I think they would go back in eventually, when those rich fat cats pay their gardeners and maids and buy their new cars and all that stuff.

        I'm assuming that this comment is meant seriously and that I did not miss the drips of irony (if I'm wrong, mod this post funny, or maybe mod it funny anyway).

        Basicly you're saying that you're willing to reduce your privacy further for the "promise" of what is, in effect,

        • Well, I guess I'm not being totally serious, nor totally ironic either. I guess I was just responding to the parents post. If trickle down economics didn't work at all, then living in the US, you would probably have a not-so-great standard of living compared to much of the rest of the world. We both know this isn't the case however, the standard of living in the US is pretty damn good, with big corporations and wealthy fat cats as we call them, being a much larger portion of the economy than elsewhere in

  • by Colin Smith (2679) on Thursday May 27, 2004 @06:18PM (#9272096)
    You can minimise your data trail. Use cash. Don't subscribe to "loyalty" cards and marketing competitions. Don't use real/permanent email addresses.

    However data collection on individuals is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if they are in a position of power.

    e.g.
    http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/

  • by Daegred (247191)
    I really like the idea of databasing all this analog data, so we can make more informed decisions. However, I don't think that people should be able to collect data on you without your permission, let alone knowledge and then claim ownership of your personal information. And especially not corporations, who can use it however they wish, for whatever is going to make them a profit, whether you like it or not.

    If there was some place I could opt-in for certain deals on groceries or whatever, I would sign up
  • Did the Institute for Justice's "eminent domain" ad [reason.com] remind anyone else of the beginning of H2G2? I guess a hyperspace bypass isn't that bad of an eminent domain abuse compared to building a limousine garage [ij.org] for that Vogon, Donald Trump.
  • On the same lines, a user's complete travel plans can also be reconstructed, as a user browses from motels and inns during his halts, using a notebook for example. Ofcourse there is P3P(Platform for Privacy Preferences) to control such kind of usage. But rarely do people use it. For those interested in knowing more: http://www.csee.umbc.edu/~kolari1/iswc/iswc/ [umbc.edu] might be of interest. It details a possible direction to privacy protection, by letting users share knowledge about websites and their privacy re
  • UK spam laws (Score:4, Interesting)

    by BillsPetMonkey (654200) on Thursday May 27, 2004 @07:48PM (#9272842)
    Never went far enough for a good reason (they basically outlawed electronic spam to private addresses but not to businesses). The reason for this is that the UK government makes money from the electoral register information by selling it to direct marketing companies for postal spam(e.g. MBNA credit card offers - yay!). It would be more than a little hypocritical to criminalize a practice the government regularly makes money from .... aneeway ...

    It also sells the information to amongst others Equifax [equifax.co.uk]. According to recent studies over those opposed to the way information is collected, over 1/3 of all Equifax records are inaccurate enough to adversely influence a credit decision.

    I recently found out that for the past six years, even though I pay over $200 per month in local tax, Equifax didn't have that information on file. This meant that I was listed as having effectively avoided paying council tax for that period. I started to examine who was to take responsibility for this "oversight".

    Well, the Data Protection Act [dataprotection.gov.uk] is very clear on this - no-one takes responsibility for the accuracy of the data. Not Equifax, not the local council, not even the people providing the information (or failing to provide the information). No-one. It is a veritable black hole of responsibility. A key point of the "Data Protection Act 1998" is that it is not there to protect the data subject, but to protect the data controller (yep, Equifax) from recourse by the data subject.

    Who is the "data subject"? Well, that's YOU of course.

    Agencies like Equifax are answerable to no-one and they have a lot of not quite so accurate information on you which they use to make influential decisions on how you live. They are the single best candidate (and best latter-day substitute) for the incompetent and overpaid bureacrat.
    • I've always wondered, if a credit reporting agency stuffed up, reported false information, any you suffered, could you sue them for defamation?

      I've having a similar situation where just because I insisted on my legal rights, my former real estage agent put me down as a bad tenannt. Whilst it is the truth, it certainly isn't in the "public interest".

      Truth is an absolute defence (in some jurisdications). What if they got it wrong? It think that may be actionable ...
      • Well, that's the weird thing about the Data Protection Act 1998. The data processing company is not particularly responsible for the quality of their data - "we just store the data". The people who give them the data are not responsible for it's accuracy either. This is the problem - no-one's responsible but the end "consumer" bears the consequences of incorrect data.

        And according to the DPA 1998, no-one has breached the Act because no-one is directly responsible.

        You can "appeal" to the Information Commis
  • I'd feel much more comfortable with the data collection if abusers faced criminal charges rather than (or on top of) civil/monetary charges.

    When a corporation's executive management faces jail time for violating an individual's rights as opposed to their insurance company paying out a settlement I think the potential for abuse would decline. Of course, there would also need to be serious oversight similar to that of the SEC (yeah yeah, I know: where were they with Enron?).
  • I remember my family getting ads from Time-Life, Publishers Clearinghouse and others with highly customized content. Like nearly 30 years ago. Stuff like this:

    Dear Thomas A. Anderson,

    Thomas, we are sure that you and the entire the Anderson family in Central City will be glad to know that the next volume in the Time-Life Science Series has already been engraved with the name of Thomas A. Anderson in solid gold lettering.

    To receive your copy entitled "Virtual Realities", Mr. Anderson, you need do not

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