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Give Up the Fight For Personal Privacy? 751

Posted by kdawson
from the they-know-anyway dept.
KlaymenDK writes "Over the last decade or so, I have strived to maintain my privacy. I have uninstalled Windows, told my friends 'sorry' when they wanted me to join Facebook, had a fight with my brother when he wanted to move the family email hosting to Gmail, and generally held back on my personal information online. But since, amongst all of my friends, I am the only one doing this, it may well be that my battle is lost already. Worse, I'm really putting myself out of the loop, and it is starting to look like self-flagellation. Indeed, it is a common occurrence that my wife or friends will strike up a conversation based on something from their Facebook 'wall' (whatever that is). Becoming ever more unconnected with my friends, live or online, is ultimately harming my social relations. I am seriously considering throwing in the towel and signing up for Gmail, Facebook, the lot. If 'they' have my soul already, I might as well reap the benefits of this newfangled, privacy-less, AJAX-2.0 world. It doesn't really matter if it was me or my friends selling me out. Or does it? I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter. How many Windows-eschewing users are not also eschewing the social networking services and all the other 2.0 supersites with their dubious end-user license agreements?"
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Give Up the Fight For Personal Privacy?

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  • by beef curtains (792692) * on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @05:29PM (#25292167)

    I'm a Windows-eschewing user who has embraced all things Google...Gmail, Google Docs, Google Calendar (my wife keeps it up to date, which prevents "You didn't tell me we had plans on Friday!" moments). I also have Facebook, Friendster, and LinkedIn profiles.

    It's funny, I went out of my way to keep my social networking site profiles generic (no pictures, no personal info, no personal statements, no likes/dislikes, etc.), and only really used them so that, when friends sent me links saying "Dude, check out this chick I work with" or "Look what this guy we went to high school with us up to now", I could see who they were talking about.

    But what I found out is that, if you know people who have profiles, and those people own digital cameras, and you've ever appeared in any of their pictures, there is a chance that your privacy has already gone up in smoke. Facebook as a very irritating feature called "tagging"...Jenny, an avid Facebook user, takes a picture of their friends Bob, Susan and Mike. Jenny then uploads that picture to her Facebook profile and "tags" that picture with the names of all the people in it. If any of those people have Facebook profiles, their names in that tag will link to them. So in this case, this picture would be tagged with Bob, Susan and Mike. Congratulations, your face is now on the web, and has a name attached to it. This tagging feature is optional, but I've found that it seems to be quite popular.

    So despite my efforts to keep my image & life details to myself, this has been undermined many times over by Facebook fanatics who have tagged pictures of me, and have added "helpful" details about how the picture was taken at my wife's cousin's wedding, complete with dates & locations.

    Your privacy is gone, my friend. You might as well suck it up & try to look at the silver lining: it is sorta fun to make contact with old classmates and to laugh at ex-girlfriends who've really let themselves go.

    • I basically made a facebook account so I could remove tags.

      I have no applications installed. Installing ONE removes your opt-out.

      • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @07:01PM (#25293375)

        I understand your personal preference, but it's worth keeping in mind that Facebook are not immune from data protection rules either. If they are holding personal information about you without your consent, and worse, sharing it with others, then they may well be breaking the law in some jurisdictions.

        I almost wish a few people who still value privacy would start filing formal complaints with the appropriate courts/regulatory authorities, so social networking sites get the message that they only get to collect data with people's informed consent. The sort of opt-out policy that Facebook et al. currently take is just an unscalable cop-out. Of course, this would be easier if we had decent privacy and data protection laws, which many countries still don't.

        • by gstoddart (321705) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @10:02PM (#25294829) Homepage

          I understand your personal preference, but it's worth keeping in mind that Facebook are not immune from data protection rules either. If they are holding personal information about you without your consent, and worse, sharing it with others, then they may well be breaking the law in some jurisdictions.

          Is that true, or merely an assertion?

          I ask, because if Sue posts a picture she took, to her site, and your face is in it and linked to your profile ... then they are holding the information that Sue gave them (legitimately) and the fact that you're incidentally in it is irrelevant to your personal stuff. Because, it's now her personal stuff as well.

          In a wired universe, it can get a little more indirect in terms of if it's "your" information or not.

          I'm just not sure most privacy laws would be strong enough to cover this case, and it might come down to a matter of whose informed consent is needed. And, moreover, what is the threshold at which Facebook gets to say they acted in good faith and be absolutely correct about it.

          Heck, as an avid photographer, I would say that if I took a photo of a crowd or in public, and you were in it (butt naked, vomiting, and with someone other than your wife) then I just have to say ... don't do things in public you might not want seen or photographed. Posting it to Facebook all nicely tagged with metadata and cross-referenced with your friends ... well, that's just asking for it.

          Cheers

        • by dangitman (862676) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @02:21AM (#25296449)

          I almost wish a few people who still value privacy would start filing formal complaints with the appropriate courts/regulatory authorities, so social networking sites get the message that they only get to collect data with people's informed consent.

          That just brings us right back to the questions posted in this writeup. Taking legal action is just going to alienate your Facebook using friends even more.

          What I find the most ironic, is that in the earlyish days of the web (and before that, USENET), I was an active participant in online communities. For that, I would often be labeled as an anti-social dork. But today, I'm labeled an anti-social dork because I don't participate in most online communities. Sigh.

          • by KlaymenDK (713149) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @07:18AM (#25297737) Journal

            What I find the most ironic, is that in the earlyish days of the web (and before that, USENET), I was an active participant in online communities. For that, I would often be labeled as an anti-social dork. But today, I'm labeled an anti-social dork because I don't participate in most online communities. Sigh.

            I don't go back quite as far as Usenet, but apart from that I can identify very well.

            For me the matter is more that if you look at my meatspace friends and my cyberfriends, there is no overlap (in fact they are very far apart) -- and this is exactly because technical forums do "it" right, and social forums don't.

            Thus, I "can't" and don't talk to my social friends online, other than by email -- which by now is as old-school as Usenet itself, and no longer "a supported feature" of most of my meatspace friends who have moved on to texting and "facebook walling" or whatchammacallit.

    • by Moridineas (213502) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @05:37PM (#25292283) Journal

      So despite my efforts to keep my image & life details to myself, this has been undermined many times over by Facebook fanatics who have tagged pictures of me, and have added "helpful" details about how the picture was taken at my wife's cousin's wedding, complete with dates & locations.

      I agree, the helpful details etc are annoying as anything. You can, however, UNTAG yourself from photos! If you care about privacy (as you clearly do, and I do as well), I would highly recommend untagging yourself.

      • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @05:41PM (#25292351)

        Add photos that you aren't in and tag them as you.

        Then add backstory for them.

        This photo was taken at my sister's friend's cousin's lesbian wedding in Monaco. That's me on lead guitar.

        Since you cannot always hide information. You can always try to obscure the facts with the fallacies.

        • by beef curtains (792692) * on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @05:54PM (#25292561)

          This photo was taken at my sister's friend's cousin's lesbian wedding in Monaco. That's me on lead guitar.

          While your whole suggested "backstory" made me chuckle, the "lead guitar" bit was the cherry on top.

          The big problem that came to mind is that, were I to try this idea, 80 people would leave Captain-Obvious-style comments on said photo:

          "Dude, that's not you"
          "Who is that guy?"
          "OMG UR SOOOOO FUNY THATS NOT U"
          "lol thats not you man!!1!"
          "You crack me up, just like you did last Friday at that party you guys had at your place at 1234 W. Main St. in downtown Whoville, corner of Main and 1st (Main is one way going east...if you pass the Kwik-E-Mart you've gone too far). Have fun on your two week vacation during which time your apartment, unit 2E, which has no security system and a bedroom window that unlatches if you jiggle it hard enough, will be empty!"

          Okay, maybe that last one was a bit over the top...but you know what I mean :)

        • by Mr. Bad Example (31092) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @05:56PM (#25292581) Homepage

          > Add photos that you aren't in and tag them as you.
          >
          > Then add backstory for them.

          They'll still be able to tell those photos aren't you.

          None of the people in them will have tinfoil hats on.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @05:57PM (#25292615)

          Security by obscurity has never really worked. I predict it won't protect your privacy either.
              --Sincerely, Anonymous Coward

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by lysergic.acid (845423)

            that's not what that phrase means. (different uses of "obscurity.")

            it's like saying writing your password on a post-it stuck to your monitor is a good security practice because security by obscurity doesn't work.

            the best way to protect your privacy _is_ by remaining private. however, i don't think that necessarily precludes social interaction or using web applications like gmail. it really depends on how each particular site handles user privacy. some sites might sell your private info to 3rd parties. googl

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by mpapet (761907)

          I hate to break it to you, but the privacy you strive for is long gone. Even if you go to a cash-only, thriftstore lifestyle, there's still lots of data being collected on you and then resold.

          The kind of privacy you are discussing, is the commercial kind. I don't consider it as important as the other stuff.
          Just don't do anything meaningful on these social sites and you should be good to go.

          I'm going to do exactly as suggested and be sure I'm recorded at multiple places at the same time doing all kinds of d

        • by Rinisari (521266) * on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @06:12PM (#25292805) Homepage Journal

          Seriously. When sites and places ask for personal information ("where were you born", "first car", "first person you dated"), use false facts, but simply remember them. I've started doing that now with nonsense answers. If I'm stupid enough forget my password and can't remember the nonsense, I'll call the place or email them. If they don't have something in place beyond that, they don't deserve my time and information.

          • by cayenne8 (626475) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @07:41PM (#25293757) Homepage Journal
            "Seriously. When sites and places ask for personal information ("where were you born", "first car", "first person you dated"), use false facts, but simply remember them. I've started doing that now with nonsense answers. If I'm stupid enough forget my password and can't remember the nonsense, I'll call the place or email them. If they don't have something in place beyond that, they don't deserve my time and information."

            I've been doing that for years....on my grocery store discount cards and other accounts, they think I'm a 68 year old hispanic lady named Matilda Jenkins, who speaks with a lisp, is on welfare and drives a Ferrari.

            Make things like this fun...come up with different personas that make no sense whatsoever, I think it is fun to try to really skew their data in strange new ways.

            • by Amazing Quantum Man (458715) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @08:13PM (#25294039) Homepage

              The NYTimes thinks I'm a 98 year old woman in Afghanistan, who makes less than $20K/yr as the CEO of her own company.

          • by clickety6 (141178) on Wednesday October 08, 2008 @05:18AM (#25297197)

            My friend created a false online persona for himself to use for these types of sites - Ethel Murgatroyd, an 80 year old, extreme sport fanatic, , gangsta-rap-performing, Barry Manilow-loving single grandmother supporting 25 dependents with a penchant for kittens, X-Boxes and Ak-47s.

            You should see the confusion this causes in the directed spam that arrives at her email account!

      • by cayenne8 (626475) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @05:55PM (#25292571) Homepage Journal
        I dunno...I just don't find the need to have a facebook or myspace page..etc.

        I too have declined to open one, privacy reasons being one of the many reasons, but, I don't find that it has hurt me any.

        For one thing...I found that it is not only old people in Korea that use email, I keep in touch with all my friends via email. And not just jokes...we have real conversations,a nd often interesting threads with groups of us on things like political debate. We just don't broadcast it publicly and render it searchable forever.

        Also, believe it or not....the phone still is a great way to communicate when you can't be there in person.

        I warn people when I can to tell them NOT to put too much out there publicly....some that haven't listened...have already been bitten in the ass by it...and learn their lesson the hard way.

        And I gotta say....with the economy getting in bad shape...jobs are gonna get a bit harder to get. And with it already known that many employers NOW search the internet for background on you, putting pics of you out there sucking the skull bong are NOT going to help you any at all.

        Bitch about it not being fair to not get a job based on what you do on your own time, or back when you were younger, but, that is how it is today.

        On the other hand...maybe I should encourage more people to put stupid shit information like that about themselves on the internet, that will just take them out of competition with me for a good job.

        :)

        • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @06:51PM (#25293271)

          I encountered the opposite situation that you described:

          I was not allowed to join a closed mailing list for malware researchers due to the fact that I am not googleable. Had I spread my identity all over the net, had a personal homepage that accurately described me and my skills, had spread comments on my thoughts to various topics of my interest under my real name on the net etc. I probably would have been accepted. But the mentioned mailing list does not want to empower criminal or dubious individuals with working state-of-the-art malicious code so a good googleable online reputation within the community is very valuable.

          Therefore I now am faced with the worry that my next potential employer might do the same. I mean, would you google a prospective employee? I would. And now imagine you had two potential employees, one who made a really good impression but you can not find anything about him on the net and a second guy who made a mediocre or even a good or maybe also a really good impression AND you find lots of positive things on the net about him. Like how people like him, blog entries about his specialization and generally: published advances to his profession like participation on public high profile mailing lists, published articles and write-ups, proof-of-concept code etc.

          It is also common in my working field that potential employers initiate a background scan on you. Again: I guess being googleable might be an advantage here.

          The only thing that helps me in this regard and that I have now but did not have when I applied for approval to the mentioned malware analysis group are my googleable certifications.

          ____________________
          Mod all ACs as +1 in this thread as insightful comments might easily be written by ACs in this thread due to the topic.

        • by Lumpy (12016) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @09:51PM (#25294751) Homepage

          Exactly. Those that think they MUST have a facebook and myspace are nuts. I keep in contact with my friends by going to be with them. you know leaving you home and interacting outside the home.

          My friend in high school that moved to kenya and I havent seen in 12 years? screw him if he cant email me or write me. I will not waste my time to go read his, their ,your facebook wall and shuffle through all the inane nonsense. The ones I know best have a blog that is modern enough to have an RSS feed so I can get updates automagically.

          Facebook and myspace and other sites are utter crap as they require you to go and waste hours there digging through the crap. Decent things will allow you to gather and sort automatically so I can get the friends and family overview in 5 minutes every day.

          And no, I ignore requests by friend s to subscribe to their twitter. I dont want to know that you just went poop.

    • by KiahZero (610862) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @05:39PM (#25292321)

      You can control tags of you in your Facebook privacy settings.

    • by lurker4hire (449306) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @06:29PM (#25293025) Homepage

      privacy isn't about keeping secrets, keeping yourself isolated, but instead about having the power to decide who has access to things you would rather keep "private". very few people keep everything private, in fact most humans, social creatures that we are, need to share otherwise private things with trusted friends and family.

      there came a point for me when I realized that the benefits of sharing day to day details of my life with my "friends" outweighed my anxiety over sharing them. to share the types of details that tools like fb allow previously required constant, repetitive physical contact (i.e. being in high school), but online i've strengthened valued social bonds that were very tenuous before due to geography or passage of time (and contrary to popular opinion, you can simply reject those who you would have rejected by not associating with before)

      if you have balanced social life you will likely find some use for fb etc, in terms that it increases potential social encounters.

      however if you are socially insecure in some way you may

      a) become overly dependent of online social tools as a means of reassuring yourself that you are socially relevant

      or

      b) avoid them all like the plague despite the fact that all your friends are organizing their social lives there (thus reducing your opportunities for social contact and feeding a self fulfilling "bah i'm better than them anyways" attitude)

      the main problem with most social web tools is that there is a lack of transparency over how they handle your information on the backend (fb for example, sure you can pretty closely control how your friends see your data, but what about all those annoying apps and fb the company itself? how can i know, in detail, what they're gonna do with my info? heck, it's not even crystal clear who has access to what info wrt applications)

      l4h

    • by philspear (1142299) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @06:53PM (#25293285)

      I hate to use a slashdot meme, and I'm not making the argument that just because something has no apperant real ramifications, it's not a serious issue, but what's so bad about pictures of you being online? You already have your images taken hundreds of times a week, anytime you walk past a bank, into almost any store, whenever you use an ATM.

      If you're not famous, the only people who are interested in pictures of you on vacation are people you already know. The one real concern I've seen is if someone posts a picture of you drinking and a prospective employer sees it. That is a concern, and a reason to detag a photo of yourself drinking. Of course, it's an extremely stupid employer who is concerned about that type of thing in the first place, and I maintain that you're better off not working there, but I also realize it's unfortunately not always that simple.

      I feel like I'm missing something. Is it more than just the principle of your right to privacy and not looking bad to future employers?

  • by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @05:33PM (#25292217) Homepage
    Science-fiction author David Brin got quite a bit of attention here on Slashdot when he began talking some years ago about how one cannot preserve privacy in the modern world, and that what we have to do instead is adapt to people knowing so much about us. See his book The Transparent Society [amazon.com] .
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @05:56PM (#25292591)

      I was hoping someone would mention that.

      This whole obsession with privacy is a little hard to understand at times. Personally, I just don't see the point in trying to prevent your name or photo from ever appearing online. True, there have been cases of identity theft using information on Facebook, but it's not worth worrying about if you're careful and limit your profile to just general information.

      I don't know. I think the world is super paranoid today. It never bothers me when someone in another country knows my full name. Or when my picture has been uploaded somewhere. Or when Google records the stuff I search for online. Who really cares? There are tens of thousands of users for every employee who has access to that data, and frankly it's a little self-centered to think one of them cares even remotely about what YOU searched for.

      Privacy is important for some things, but it's not this magical state that makes you immune to anything ever going wrong in your life again. Keep some things secret, and stop being so damn paranoid about everything else. Yeah, Gmail scans your emails for keywords. So what? Nobody other than a machine is going to read your letters, and even if they did, nobody is going to care that you wrote a saucy message to your girlfriend (or wife, or whatever).

      I don't have a Facebook account, because I don't have any use for one. Most of my friends stay in contact via email and chatroom conversations. We have no use for an AJAX site where we can tell everyone what mood we're in and what goth music we're listening to this week. Okay, so maybe I have a personal gripe with most online networking site, as they tend to be populated with attention-whoring kids who think write text on a bright yellow background is perfectly readable. But even when used properly, those sites just don't fill any specific need of my social life.

      If you're paranoid about identity theft, don't use your credit card online. Don't post your contact details anywhere, or your SSN (or any equivalent national ID in your country). But really, there's no need to be so absurdly paranoid about your photo, even when captioned by your full name. Nobody cares about you! I'm sorry to be blunt, but really, nobody is going to see your picture and then suddenly decide to pursue more information (unless you happen to be quite a dashing young man).

      This world is full of people who are all worried about themselves. We have our own problems, and we probably spend our private time doing all the same things you do. It really, really isn't a big deal if some of your life makes its way onto the digital world. Nobody is going to care about it anyway.

      • by postbigbang (761081) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @06:04PM (#25292709)

        You need to understand respect for those that desire privacy. Just because you're an exhibitionist doesn't mean that we are. We can be private in our thoughts, deeds, and actions. Anonymity also insulates you against the whims of government, and organizations that don't have your best interests in mind.

        I don't care if anyone knows about me or not; those that do are certainly in touch, and not under the auspices of soul-rendering EULAs from Facebook, MySpace, Plaxo, LinkedIn, or any other 'social site'.

        Your broadly cast seeming truisms are indeed false, and suit you, and you and others that agree with it. There are many of us that don't. Privacy is part of liberty, and liberty an essential part of freedom. I give up neither just so that others can use a seeming social network to keep in touch with me. There's email, snail mail, and simple phone calls. Oh yeah-- the best one-- face to face visits.

        • by FleaPlus (6935) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @06:33PM (#25293065) Journal

          You need to understand respect for those that desire privacy. Just because you're an exhibitionist doesn't mean that we are. We can be private in our thoughts, deeds, and actions. Anonymity also insulates you against the whims of government, and organizations that don't have your best interests in mind.

          The thesis of books like Brin's "Transparenty Society" is more of a matter that with increasing technological progress the erosion of privacy is inevitable. It reminds me a little bit of cultures that eschew photography, because they're afraid that cameras steal their soul or something. That's all fine and dandy, but since we seem to be going towards a society where almost everyone is going to be carrying tiny little cameraphones with them in their pockets and using them for a variety of purposes, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep your soul from getting stolen.

      • Your comment about identity theft got me thinking:

        Is it harder to steal someone's identity when it's well known to be theirs?

        I mean, if my picture is on the internet, and everyone knows my full name and basically where I live and what I do for a living, how easy is it for someone to come and steal my identity in a way that I can't refute? Instead of spending years untangling the thread and trying to convince the legal system that *I'm* me, and someone else ISN'T, maybe I can just point to the preponderance of evidence that I am who I say I am.

        Is this the same sort of thing that we strive for with using OSS in voting machines? By exposing everything, have we actually tightened security? If my SIN (or SSN) is available on the internet on my facebook page, next to all those pictures of me from the time I was 8 years old to the present, does anyone really have a hope of stealing my identity?

        I suppose identity theft normally works by stealing essential bits of your identity and using them from the shadows, but in a system where a bright light is shone on all the little dark spots, would it be possible anymore? Hmm.

        (I do, actually, understand the desire for privacy for certain things; the adage that if you don't have anything to hide, you shouldn't worry is retarded. The next time someone asks that of you, ask how many times a week they have sex, or what the results of their last prostate exam was. Just because there's nothing illegal or actually embarrassing about the information doesn't mean that it isn't worth keeping secret.)

  • Ideals (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Applekid (993327) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @05:35PM (#25292257)

    Sticking to your ideals isn't always easy. Sticking to them in hard times demonstrates how important it is.

    The compomise is to not give in to everyone, just be selective. I'd much rather trust Google with how useful their stuff becomes when you do trust them than I would trust, say, Microsoft who would request your information (that old registration bit) which will use it exclusively for marketing and later BSA audits.

  • by i_ate_god (899684) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @05:37PM (#25292293) Homepage

    So, instead of going to a bar to discuss things where I can overhear them, you lay it all out on your facebook profile instead, where I can overread them.

    So what? Who cares if your likes or dislikes are posted for all to see?

    I LIKE JUNO REACTOR AND SEX

    See? Was that so hard? Has my life become worse now that you know this? Facebook isn't going to make your life any less private than when your girlfriend talks to her girlfriends about your impotence. Stop being so paranoid. This isn't a new world of TOTAL INFORMATION AWARENESS.

  • I don't get it... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Otter (3800) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @05:38PM (#25292303) Journal
    I'm not sure what the motivation is here. Either "privacy" is some sort of religious thing for you, in which case giving up Facebook is a small price to pay, or it's a pragmatic matter, in which case you can make a decision about what the pros and cons are for you instead of asking us.

    If you're asking whether I personally am impressed by someone bragging about how he refuses to use Facebook or GMail: it impresses me about as much as someone who brags about not having heard of some television show.
    • by Bogtha (906264) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @05:56PM (#25292593)

      If you're asking whether I personally am impressed by someone bragging about how he refuses to use Facebook or GMail: it impresses me about as much as someone who brags about not having heard of some television show.

      In fact, the entire submission reads like a pastiche of Area Man Constantly Mentioning He Doesn't Own A Television [theonion.com]. I understand wanting to protect your privacy, but this guy really does seem to treasure the fact that he is clueless about Facebook etc. Whenever I've ever heard anybody say anything like "their Facebook 'wall' (whatever that is), it's always been with a condescending "I'm too good for crap like that" tone. This guy doesn't want privacy, he wants to feel better than everybody else.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by kesuki (321456)

        "Whenever I've ever heard anybody say anything like "their Facebook 'wall' (whatever that is), it's always been with a condescending "I'm too good for crap like that" tone."

        i'll fix that for you. I don't give a crap about facebook because i'm anti-social and have a mental illness that makes me extremely happy to have as little human contact as possible. When i play video games online vs human opponents i avoid the in game chat capabilities. talk? to my allies or opponents? no thanks. even when there are s

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by PMuse (320639)

      Actually, I am impressed when people tell me that they refuse to own a television. Television, like Facebook and the www, is a seductive time-sink. I always suspect that I would live better if I eschewed them all.

  • Reverse (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rinisari (521266) * on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @05:39PM (#25292317) Homepage Journal

    I'm a privacy guy, too, or at least I was until things like Facebook and blogs come around.

    Now, instead of trying to keep everything secret, I think it's easier to assume that everything is known. Some things simply have access controls to modify them or see extended information or are otherwise secured by information that assuredly only I know: passphrases (not passwords).

    There's also a key element here: I don't do anything illegal and I'm honest with friends and family. One might say, "What happens when you do?" to which I will reply, "Then I guess I'm going to jail like I should." If someone comes to me with beef about something I wrote, then it's up to me to defend my position.

    If I want to pass or store information securely, I'll use PGP or other virtually impenetrable encryption with good secret key protection practices, such as keeping them in my head.

    • by maillemaker (924053) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @05:54PM (#25292563)

      "There's also a key element here: I don't do anything illegal and I'm honest with friends and family. One might say, "What happens when you do?" to which I will reply, "Then I guess I'm going to jail like I should." If someone comes to me with beef about something I wrote, then it's up to me to defend my position."

      There is a problem with this position.

      You are making the assumption that nothing will happen in the future to make currently acceptable, moral, lawful behavior illegal.

      If the law changes in such a way as to be tyrannical and you have allowed no possibility for revolt without getting caught you have sealed your fate long before the tyranny came to pass.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by HTH NE1 (675604)

        You are making the assumption that nothing will happen in the future to make currently acceptable, moral, lawful behavior illegal.

        Indeed, there's at least one scientist who admitted to experimental drug use when (and where) it wasn't illegal being barred from entry to the United States today for that reason. He was found because a TSA screener googled him and found the book he wrote with a chapter on the subject.

        (And I'm glad to see my old signature (about eternal copyright) lives on. I need a better new one than the one I have now (TANSTAFFL).)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by shird (566377)

      But what about legal things that are embarrassing? i.e guys like porn. They look at porn. Do you want everyone to see your entire porn browsing history? There are limits to what information you want known, legal or not.

    • Re:Reverse (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Hyppy (74366) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @06:37PM (#25293137)
      The "I have nothing to hide" argument has been covered at great length by Daniel Solove [ssrn.com] (great read, by the way).

      How do you know your lawful activities will always be lawful? Every time I see someone react with "I'm not a criminal" fallacy, all I can think of is the question "Are you now, or have you ever been associated with a member of the Muslim faith?" We're not far away from a witch hunt of that flavor.

      Even putting aside the threat of zealous elected officials with grocery lists, not all of your private information is fit for public consumption. Taken in the wrong context, almost any information about you can be used against you. Have you paid for a bar tab with a credit card? Through a certain lens, you could be painted as a raging drunk. Sure, there could be hundreds of valid explanations, but chances are you won't be present or able to defend yourself.

      I trust the corporations even less. When the only risk that an entity must seriously consider is a possible monetary settlement, then the odds of your best interests being taken seriously are nil. Remember that.
  • Err.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheSpoom (715771) * <{ten.00mrebu} {ta} {todhsals}> on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @05:40PM (#25292327) Homepage Journal

    This is a bit over the top. On Facebook, for example, you can restrict practically any information you put into it. Now, Facebook themselves could technically do what they wanted with it, but if you're worried about the information getting out to the internet as a whole, you just go into your preferences and tell it what to make public, friends-only, completely private, or what-have-you, and they'll restrict it as appropriate. Just because most people don't enable this restriction doesn't mean it's not there.

    If you're worried about Facebook selling your information to other entities, etc., take a look at Facebook's privacy policy [facebook.com], which states pretty clearly what they will and will not do with your information.

    I have a feeling, though, that you've already made your decision and just want to hear from others who feel as you do.

    • Re:Err.. (Score:5, Informative)

      by MLCT (1148749) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @06:03PM (#25292697)
      Facebook implemented without asking anyone anything - until there was a public outcry. [wikipedia.org]

      Facebook made it impossible for you to delete your account - until there was a public outcry.

      "developers" of "applications" can see a great deal of your private data - this has not been fixed - there has not been a public outcry yet.

      If it was private data and how much I choose to let others on the web see then that would be one thing. The issue I see with facebook is that they themselves seem to want to exploit your data at every single stage. Things like the inability to delete your account and "opt-out" services should be the anathema of any business that cares about privacy - instead they nefariously implemented them without consent and defended them until there was outcry. It took a feature piece in the New York Times before they decided to let people delete their accounts. What are they trying to hide?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by bennomatic (691188)
      There are holes in facebook. For example:
      • User A is friends with users B and C
      • User B and C are not friends.
      • User A comments on a photo in user C's album that is marked as "friends only"
      • User B gets a notification of that activity, and can click on the link to see the photo and comment.
      • User B can then navigate through the whole album, although only C's friends were supposed to have seen it.

      Just because they're there doesn't mean they work.

  • by OglinTatas (710589) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @05:40PM (#25292333)

    appropriate to this topic:
    cat and girl [catandgirl.com]

  • by fiannaFailMan (702447) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @05:40PM (#25292337) Journal

    For years I swore that I'd never get a cell phone. I held out admirably until about 2003/04 or thereabouts, but I had to succumb. The reason was that everyone else had one, and social etiquette had moved on to the point where it was considered rude not to call in certain situations, not to return a call promptly, and social events were being organised and plans adjusted with such speed that it was all but impossible to be kept in the loop with a landline and payphones alone.

    It's similar to how there are people who live in rural or suburban areas who would probably love to be able to live without a car, but a lot of the infrastructure and social norms that would have made that feasible in the past are no longer around.

    Society expects you to be able to have personal mobility and instant availability for communication, and it works on the assumption that you do.

    Judging by the experience posted, it looks like some people are holding back on the social networking thing and finding it difficult because of peer pressure pushing them into it. Interesting how society forces a body to conform.

  • by totallygeek (263191) <sellis@totallygeek.com> on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @05:40PM (#25292341) Homepage

    So, you don't want anything posted on places like Facebook, showing a list of your friends along with articles you have written, journal entries, ties to items you have posted about, etc. But, you have no problem with the same on Slashdot?

    Four friends listed
    A page filled with your posts to submitted articles
    Three journal entries
    Three fans

    I know some people on Facebook that maintain some privacy: one never fills in all the fields or puts in erroneous information, one puts her middle name as her last name and posts an avatar instead of a photo.

  • Participate! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sneakyimp (1161443) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @05:44PM (#25292395)

    I share a lot of your concerns but I think you might be going so far as to be antisocial. If you have nothing to hide, there's no reason to be hidden. Don't be afraid to participate in society.

    On the other hand, I do worry about Orwellian tendencies among government and business. E.g., If I buy cigarettes for my friend using my bank card, will my health care be canceled?

    I have found a hosts file (http://www.mvps.org/winhelp2002/hosts.htm) to be very useful in protecting myself from malware and nosey ad tracking stuff.

    I have signed up on facebook.com. It's nice to hear from old friends. I don't spend any time there though. I have never once been to twitter.

  • by JustinOpinion (1246824) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @05:45PM (#25292423)

    The question is phrased in a sort of black/white manner: either you fight tooth-and-nail to maintain maximum privacy, or you give up and sign up for every crazy privacy-eroding service.

    The obvious answer is "all things in moderation." I consider myself privacy-conscious. I don't run Windows. I do use Facebook and Gmail. However I use them with privacy in mind. So my Facebook profile has very little information, has privacy options set quite high, and I only accept friend invites from people that I reasonably trust. (So many people seem to get sucked into the "I need my friend count to be higher" game--which invariable means accepting invites from strangers.)

    My strategy works, more or less. There are times when friends reveal information about me online I would rather they didn't (e.g. tagging me in photos on Facebook). But you can't completely prevent these kinds of things. In the same way that friends can give out your phone number or gossip about you in real-life, there will be some privacy loss online. The goal should be to keep things private without it becoming a burden to do so.

    It sounds like you're taking the privacy thing to far--to the point that it's harder for you to socialize and enjoy life. So loosen your rules a little bit. Remember that every company (the power company, the cable company, your bank, etc.) has tons of privacy-eroding data on you. Online companies will also get some privacy-eroding data. But as long as you keep it within reasonable bounds, then it won't cause a problem.

    Remember, privacy isn't really something that has to be maintained for its own sake. Privacy is a means for you to enjoy your life free from bother, and to prevent people harming/taking advantage of you. Calibrate accordingly.

    A small loss of privacy is okay if it achieves the greater objective of making you happy.

  • by Wee (17189) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @05:46PM (#25292439)

    I fail to see what Windows has to do with your mini-rant. As a long-time Linux user, I'll shake my tiny fist along with you and tilt at all the windmills I come across, but how have you given up your privacy by using a certain operating system?

    -B

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by shbazjinkens (776313)
      As a Windows user, I feel that I'm probably more likely to have my PC hijacked online than with Linux, which seems to be more secure. Beside that, Microsoft is constantly bothering me with irrelevant updates, asking me to send them information about software failures, have at least once made an unauthorized update to my machine, always wants to DRM my music in media player, etc. This pushy nonsense gives me the sense that they're nosing in on my business, if not worse.
  • by blitzkrieg3 (995849) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @05:49PM (#25292487)
    You won't give close friends the ability to post on your wall, yet you have no problem letting the whole world know that you were listening to elvis [www.last.fm] 2 hours ago?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by iamhigh (1252742) *
      You are modded funny, but it brings up a good point. Google my username.... first page = all usernames. Yet none of those are mine. This is the only site where I use this name (mainly because I didn't actually think it would go through, then next thing I know I am signed up).

      So Should you use the same name to protect that username/handle against future employer/gf/whatever googling your name/email/username and finding out that iamhigh on myspace banged some asian last night?
      Or should you use a complet
  • It can go two ways (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MLCT (1148749) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @05:50PM (#25292493)
    All of this can go two ways.

    In ten years time either all of the "facebook" stuff will be seen as a fad, and joked about as a fad - forgotten and irrelevant. Or it will still be "big" and they will know and capitalise on every single aspect of every single person's private data.

    Personally I suspect it will be the former scenario - the "2.0", "social-networking" stuff is just a buzz - a hyper money fuelled fad. The whole thing is an attempt to generate a self-fulfilling prophecy. Facebook worth fifteen billion dollars? Give me a break. The entire bubble has been fuelled on speculative hot air - "if I say it is valuable and the next big thing, then it is". As the stock market has so ably proven over the last few weeks - fads and self-fulfilling prophecies never last.

    There was an analogy that was doing the rounds on the "privacy-less age" that we are supposed to be living in. It drew comparisons between the nineteenth century reluctance people had to put money into banks and today's reluctance to protect your private details. We now deposit most of our assets with banks and think nothing of it, the analogy being that in the future the same will be with our private information. Of course like most analogies it is fundamentally flawed to compare the two things - but I couldn't help but smile when, over the last month, I see people questioning to withdraw their money from banks that are on their knees.
  • by PPH (736903) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @05:50PM (#25292497)

    If someone wants to find you, or find out about you, they'll keep looking until they've found you. Or until they think they have.

    Get a GMail account, a Facebook page and otherwise conduct yourself as the typical clueless user with a wife, 2.1 kids, a dog and a house with a white picket fence. When 'they' go looking for you, that's what they'll find. Then , they'll go away.

    Conduct your clandestine activity anonymously, or using some manufactured identities. Leave your cell phone at home and don't drive your own car (or at least switch plates). Bury bodies in someone else's back yard.

  • what a drama queen (Score:5, Insightful)

    by circletimessquare (444983) <circletimessquare AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @05:53PM (#25292545) Homepage Journal

    i consider privacy to include my password to my bank account, what my girlfirend looks like naked, and the details of how i lost my virginity, and a few other things

    i don't really consider anything that goes on in gmail, in windows, or on facebook to equate to my privacy. who does? this information is mined in order to display ads in a side panel on my pc? ok. and your point?

    if you consider that sort of pointless uninteresting minutae of your life to be in the realm of your "privacy" then i and many other people think you are being rather precious and overly dramatic about your life. its really just not that interesting, or worth protecting. most of us have some ability to gauge exactly how absolutely interesting segments of our daily lives and our social circle is, egomaniacs amongst us notwithstanding, and we find it to be rather common and not valuable. precious in total, to ourselves, because it is our lives, but not inherently precious as some sort of vital aspect of humanity. and we know this. and there is no cognitive dissonance about this observation. only within our own personal perspective does this minutiae have value, and in no other persecptive is it even possible to have value. so there is no need to protect anything

    take for example a series of snapshots of a trip to disney world. to the person in those snapshots, they are probably more valuable than the mona lisa. but to most everyone else, they are utterly uninteresting. but, and here's the important part: the person in those snapshots KNOWS they are valuable only to him, such that exposure of those pictures to random people he will never know has no context to his life. it cannot hurt him, their reaction. even if he knew someone was looking at his private pictures and was laughing at them: so what? how can that hurt you? how can it wound you? its completely without relevancy to who and what is important to you, so laugh away. the context in which they laugh has no leverage over your personal life, becuase the judgments being made against you are being made within frameworks that have no impact on how you live your life or how you judge your life, or anyone important to you judges your life

    this level of security about one's personal life is not bizarre, its normal. i am aware there are probably brittle insecure people out there who instead would be hurt and wounded by this scenario. and? its not like their reaction is valid. its only their distorted sense of what they attach their ego to that gives them pain. yes, they are in pain, but according to any coherent sense of morality, no valid reason can be formulated that justifies their pain. their reaction has no valid real context to their lives, despite their false impression that it does. their own misplaced sense of perspective is the source of their pain, not anything that anyone has impositioned them with an abridgement of their "privacy"

    and this is not even something new to the world of the internet. all of us, thorughout all time periods and cultures, have been exposed to judgments about our personal lives by "outsiders". if i go to japan, and i laugh at what japanese people eat, does that hurt the japanese people's feelings? will it change what they eat? is my laughter valid to them in some way? doe sit have any context in their lives? what if a child laughed at my hairdo? or, if i am a teenager, what if an adult tut tutted at my clothing. has my personal space been judged or hurt in any context that is valid and you would take into consideration in changing your personal life?

    its not that people are radically unconcerned about their privacy. its that some people consider things to be "private" and worthy of radical defense that most of us view as completely pointless effluvia. go ahead, make fun of it, expose it to the world. its me, its my personality. and?

  • Is it worth it? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jibjibjib (889679) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @05:55PM (#25292575) Journal
    Obviously, taken to the extreme, privacy means not communicating with anyone.

    At some point, you have to find the balance between protecting your personal information and actually being able to interact with other people.

    Consider the chance that your life will be somehow ruined by some comment you post on Facebook. It's very low, I think. Now consider how bad you're making life for yourself by refusing to communicate in order to avoid this risk. Is it really worth it?

    I, for one, think the benefit I gain from Web 2.0 sites is generally worth the risk.

  • Lost in the crowd (Score:5, Interesting)

    by harl (84412) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @05:57PM (#25292611)

    Short Version: No one is going to pay attention to you unless to invite that attention.

    Computers are stupid. The volume of data you're worried about is mind boggling huge. Your google search history is tucked in there with billions on billions of other web requests. If you don't keep cookies between sessions then your thousands of individual search histories are tucked in there with billions of other web requests. This is far too complex for a computer to solve. Someone would have to specifically focus on you to assemble anything useful.

    This is the case with just about everything. The volume of data is so large that unless you're doing something to stand out the fact that they have some of your information is meaningless.

    If you're doing something to stand out then people will focus on you. That's when things get dicey. Until then you just get lost in the crowd.

    Here's what you should ask yourself. Why the fuck would anyone bother with you? I'm not being mean. Seriously who would give a fuck about your web history? Most privacy concerns are simply ego. You're really not as important as you think you are.

    You also fail to mention a lot of things. Do you have cable? Do you have your own internet? Do you only use cash? Do you drive on toll roads? The fact that you focus online and not on some of the worse real world things makes worry about you.

    If you don't pay for literally _everything_ in cash you're giving away infinitely more intimate information than you'll ever find on facebook.

    Do you have a cable box? If so you're entire viewing history ever may be available.

    Your entire web history goes through your ISPs servers. Trivial to log. Are you using an encrypted pipe to a proxy? Do you control that proxy? Physically?

    if you drive on toll roads there may be a record of all your travels. If you use a transponder to auto pay tolls then there must be.

  • by mkcmkc (197982) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @06:01PM (#25292667)

    I decided quite a while ago that resistance was futile. Most details don't really matter, but it might be prudent to think about what would happen if you ever wanted to run for office or if the political winds shifted further to the right.

    As for me, though, this is not a problem, because I love my country and especially that wonderful President of ours. God has truly blessed us to give us such intelligent, caring, and well-groomed leaders. My goal in life is to someday meet one of them so that I can adore him in person.

  • I struggle too (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mcelrath (8027) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @06:18PM (#25292891) Homepage

    I struggle with the same problem. Some time ago I signed up for a facebook account, but declined to approve the "how we know each other" things my friends posted when they added me as a friend -- that crossed a line. Eventually I caved and approved all of them.

    Personal privacy is not something that's terribly important until someone uses it against you. Society has to get used to the fact that the boring guy in accounting may actually attend kinky parties, and that's not a reason to fire him. Loss of privacy enables discrimination, and there must be a counterbalancing force to that. The optimistic side of me thinks that this will make society more tolerant. The other side sees that it will cause harm to a lot of people in the short term.

    Police and courts must be enabled to the same information (and there's no reason they can't get that info now...). So when the accountant at the kinky sex party is fired, he can sue for discrimination. I do expect a rash of court cases of this type over the next 10 years. Fortunately they should be easy to win.

    But I think the most serious consequence is in politics. Or, areas of life where fact is secondary to appearance. I've never felt terribly concerned about any details about myself...just ask and I'm sure I'd give you way more information than you could find in facebook. But, it's the principle of the matter, and the capability of unscrupulous people to do unscrupulous things. Not necessarily to me... but the capability of (say) one political party to prevent another political party from showing up for a vote by putting their names on a terrorist watch list, or by calling a raid on a party they know they attended because it was on Facebook Calendar. This kind of openness enables your enemies just as it enables your friends, and I don't know how to counter this change. It's clear the US anyway has political parties willing to blatantly lie about each other (e.g. Palin - Obama "palling with terrorists"), it's not that important that they have actual facts they can distort for their lies. Without this kind of openness, they would make things up anyway.

    So, transparency of information will cause (a) stronger anti-discrimination laws and (b) difficulty for anyone in politics. This could be the end of functional democracy.

    I also think the internet should be making people smarter. I'm still waiting on serious data to back that up...it also seems to give idiots a place to congregate.

    So in conclusion, I have no conclusion. Things are changing. I don't know yet whether it's good or bad.

  • I am the same way (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DaMattster (977781) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @06:22PM (#25292935)
    I don't use windows and I don't use social networking sites and I am proud of that. Keep up the good work! I think privacy is really underrated
  • by Fishbulb (32296) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @06:35PM (#25293091)

    Especially if you've used the same nick on other sites (I'm assuming so). A quick Googling of your slashdot nick shows that:
    - you've made some 3D models of your desk and wine rack.
    - you've got a last.fm profile listing Elvis and Chuck Berry as recently listened to
    - you're on Openmoko
    - you like boardgames
    - you may something to do with g-b.dk
    - you've posted to linuxquestions.org about bookmarks
    - your nick may be a reference to the main character of a game called 'The Neverhood'

    Oh, and if you thought privacy was easier before the webbernet, go talk to a skip tracer about how easy it is to find you, even when covering your tracks.

  • by edmicman (830206) on Tuesday October 07, 2008 @09:02PM (#25294371) Homepage Journal
    You can either live a secluded life as a hermit, and live life to its fullest by interacting with others. The cruel truth of it is, if you interact with another human then your "privacy" (in your terms) is gone. All the Gmails and Facebooks have done is move it online and cataloged it. Before the Internet, if you walked outside and met a friend at the park, neighbors could see you, other friends might see you, they could take pictures, tell their friends and family about it, etc.

    What difference does it make if those acquaintances that see you or whatnot are living on your street, or linked to you online?

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