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Privacy In the Age of Persistence 120

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the hard-to-beat-intertia-of-lazy-people dept.
Bruce Schneier recently wrote another essay on privacy for the BBC concentrating on how data seems to be the "pollution of the information age" and where this seems to be leading. "We're not going to stop the march of technology, just as we cannot un-invent the automobile or the coal furnace. We spent the industrial age relying on fossil fuels that polluted our air and transformed our climate. Now we are working to address the consequences. (While still using said fossil fuels, of course.) This time around, maybe we can be a little more proactive. Just as we look back at the beginning of the previous century and shake our heads at how people could ignore the pollution they caused, future generations will look back at us — living in the early decades of the information age — and judge our solutions to the proliferation of data."
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Privacy In the Age of Persistence

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  • Remember... (Score:5, Funny)

    by stillnotelf (1476907) on Friday February 27, 2009 @05:13PM (#27016995)
    Anything you post in this thread will be on the Internet forever, so be careful!
    • by aicrules (819392) on Friday February 27, 2009 @05:18PM (#27017049)
      Slashdot moderation provides the utopian method for making all information available while providing the facility for anyone to set their own threshold for what information they will actually see. Slashdot will be looked at by future generations and they will say "There is an information source that was ahead of its time!" Then they'll accidentally set their mod threshold to -1 and will immediately dig up Taco's corpse and beat it with a stick.
      • by memnock (466995)

        i was just about to say
        save the information environment: shutdown /.

        guess you beat me to it. :)

      • Re:Remember... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by commodore64_love (1445365) on Friday February 27, 2009 @05:43PM (#27017357) Journal

        The problem is that nothing disappears. If you admitted back in 1999, while you were an idiot college student, that you "experimented" with marijuana, do you really want that Slashdot post to reappear in a year 2020 Google search when you're trying to run for the State Legislature or Congress?

        There are drawbacks to keeping messages that we posted when we were still young & stupid. I still have Usenet posts from the year 1987 that still come back and haunt me. I was only 10-11 years old, but nobody reading those old posts know that. They identify those posts with the adult version of me, and assume I can't spell.

        Imagine the backlash that might have occurred against Obama if we were able to find his old high school postings, wherein he admits he cheated on a test by copying from his neighbor. The web didn't exist when Obama was in high school, but eventually we will have presidents with decades-old online postings, and you can be sure FOX News, CNN, and all the rest will dig them up for all to see.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by RedK (112790)
          That's exactly why you use an online handle. I doubt we'd see "commander64_love" running for president.
          • Re:Remember... (Score:4, Insightful)

            by TorKlingberg (599697) on Friday February 27, 2009 @06:59PM (#27018249)

            Unless it can be connected, say if he lists commander64_love@something.com on his Facebook profile.

          • by dangitman (862676)

            "commander64_love"

            Is that commodore64_love's evil twin brother, who loves running Total Commander on a 64-bit PC?

            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              No my evil twin's name is atari800_love.

              We had various and vociferous debates about which computer was better. He'd say the Atari has better graphics, and I'd argue the Commodore has a sound chip that can make realistic music. It got even worse when he upgraded to an ST and I to an Amiga. We just never saw eye-to-eye.

              Of course now that Microsoft controls everything, we both are unhappy.

              • by dangitman (862676)

                It got even worse when he upgraded to an ST and I to an Amiga. We just never saw eye-to-eye.

                Damnit! Some people never listen to reason. The Amiga supports Video Toaster, which can offer you toasted or grilled bread products at any time, as well as rendering 3D graphics for unpopular Sci-Fi TV shows. How could he seriously support the Atari ST under such circumstances?

                • >>>rendering 3D graphics for unpopular Sci-Fi TV shows

                  (cough). Unpopular? Space Above and Beyond only survived one year unfortunately, but seaQuest stayed on NBC for three years and was popular with teenagers. The show called Babylon 5 made a profit every year of its existence (else WB would have canceled it), with ratings just 1 percentage point behind its "big brother" Deep Space Nine.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Rob Kaper (5960)

          The problem is that nothing disappears. If you admitted back in 1999, while you were an idiot college student, that you "experimented" with marijuana, do you really want that Slashdot post to reappear in a year 2020 Google search when you're trying to run for the State Legislature or Congress?

          Yes, because hopefully by 2020

          a) the electorate will put more trust in candidates being open about past mistakes than those being most capable in cover-ups or spin doctor tactics

          b) the electorate will realise we all have lived twenty to thirty immature years before reaching true adulthood

          c) the electorate will not be so uptight about marijuana in the first place

          • by dangitman (862676)

            Yes, because hopefully by 2020 a) the electorate will put more trust in candidates being open about past mistakes than those being most capable in cover-ups or spin doctor tactics

            Ha! Oh boy, you really crack me up. Nice one!

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          The problem is that nothing disappears. If you admitted back in 1999, while you were an idiot college student, that you "experimented" with marijuana, do you really want that Slashdot post to reappear in a year 2020 Google search when you're trying to run for the State Legislature or Congress?

          Why would this be an issue? It hasn't been an issue for people running for President. Why should it be an issue for people running for Congress. So far it has only been an issue for people trying to get student loans or jobs at Best Buy.

          Anything could be an issue. If your parents post baby pictures of your circumcision, baptism or Bar Mitzvah then this could certainly be an issue, although people may argue that it shouldn't be. Anything could be made into an issue. If you talk about politics or religion on

          • by redkcir (1431605)
            This is a issue because employers are now scouring the Internet for things their employees say or did. Ask the girl in England who just lost her job because someone saw a comment she made on her My space page. Even though it didn't mention her employer, they fired her because she said she was unhappy about her job. And how about your insurance? Providers are looking you up on the net for anything to disavow your claim or if they will cover you. Anything you say that goes across the net can come back and bit
            • >>>they fired her because she said she was unhappy about her job.

              I can't believe that's legal. Lots of people are unhappy with their job, and say it out loud. That's no reason to fire them.

              • >>>they fired her because she said she was unhappy about her job.

                I can't believe that's legal. Lots of people are unhappy with their job, and say it out loud. That's no reason to fire them.

                "That's no reason to fire them". It's not a good reason to fire them. I remember hearing about one company (can't remember the name) that was a retailer. In the employee lounge area they had a sign up, it said something like this "Don't forget to smile at the customer, or you'll be fired". So sometimes being "unhappy" isn't an option.

                • I'd still sue.

                  What you say away from work should have *nothing* to do with your future firing, especially if you are smiling when you help the customers. Firings should happen for job-related deficiencies, and if no deficiencies exist then the firing is unjustified.

              • by redkcir (1431605)
                Never the less, that's what happened. Here is a link http://www.momlogic.com/2009/02/facebook_fired.php [momlogic.com]
          • Amen!

            I don't care if you are drunk, gay or a donkey. Would you marry me?

          • >>>It hasn't been an issue for people running for President.

            Then why did Clinton say "I tried it but I didn't inhale." Clearly it was an issue for him to utter such a baldfaced lie. I suspect Bush did marijuana too, but he kept quiet about it rather than risk losing the 2000 election. Marijuana IS an issue for anyone running for office.

            Heck, look what happened to the Congressman who supposedly prostituted for sex in a bathroom. He got run out of Congress. We ALL have sex, but apparently electe

            • >>>It hasn't been an issue for people running for President.

              Then why did Clinton say "I tried it but I didn't inhale."

              Yes, everything is an issue when running for Office. It's all relative. Compared to getting a minimum wage job or even an education, it's obviously a lot easier to face the wrath of the electorate than the wrath of the HR department. As for Clinton, he never got sanctioned for not inhaling, he got sanctioned for not having sex. It appeared to me at least that smoking marijuana was more an issue with himself and his own hypocrisy (he signed into law draconian laws that denied student loans to pot smokers). T

              • >>>he got sanctioned for not having sex

                I hope you're not serious. If someone is sucking your _____ until you _______, that's called sex. And it's clearly inappropriate. Any other boss who made an employee get down on her knees would be charged with sexual harassment. In fact even hanging a swimsuit calendar in your office, although not illegal, is still grounds for termination. Don't try to pretend that the Big Boss ordering an intern to polish his knob is acceptable or "not sex".

                • If someone is sucking your _____ until you _______, that's called sex.

                  Sex is the act of putting a penis in a vagina, as was stated by President Clinton, who is a lawyer.

                  And it's clearly inappropriate.

                  That's a value judgment.

                  Any other boss who made an employee get down on her knees would be charged with sexual harassment.

                  Although I wasn't there, my understanding is that President Clinton never forced the intern to suck on anything.

                  Don't try to pretend that the Big Boss ordering an intern to polish his knob is acceptable or "not sex".

                  The news reports stated that it was Monica Lewinsky that made the propositions, and that the CIA was trying to have Ms. Lewinski separated from the President as much as possible. I never heard any reports of Monaca charging the President with rape or harassment, or even suing

            • If you want to be in office, you need a clean record.

              Senator Burris may disprove that theory.

              And Mayor Marion Barry (Washington DC), who was elected in a landslide as soon as he got out of prison on corruption charges from his previous stint as Mayor of DC, might also disagree.

          • by wordsnyc (956034)

            Like I tell people in China; if you don't like communism then either leave the country or assassinate its leaders.

            You tell them that to their faces? How do you get the air time?

            I ask because I think they'd really go for some Amish-built space heaters I have.

        • i smoked marijuana. why should i be ashamed of that? why must i pander to weakminded shrill people i don't even like whose opinions on making marijuana illegal i consider wrong?

          furthermore, why should we pander to over judgmental assholes who would hold against somebody some indiscretion of their from high school?

          i understand what i did in high school should not be held against me, you understand that, anyone of any moral integriy does too. in which case, who are we really trying to pander too? oh: weak min

          • Of course, we can all see that your caps lock and period keys are busted and you're too cheap to spring for a new keyboard. I'm sure somebody will try to use that against you now. You should have posted anonymously.
            • by jakykong (1474957)
              Ok, really now. I am a fan of proper English as much as the next guy, but what does that have to do with his opinion? I have a friend, for example, who has a reading disorder; as a result, his spelling is terrible. One's ability to type in English is not a meter of their opinion's value. Personally, I entirely agree with the GP, and while I haven't tried marijuana myself, I don't see why anyone should be begrudged based upon something stupid they did in school, especially if they're clearly (as in this cas
              • by ArsonSmith (13997)

                Once you understand his point, you'll understand the difference between being right and being true.

                truth isn't always right.

            • grammar nazis know i've smoked pot

              my life is ruined

          • Because, at least in most places, it's illegal. Against the law. A crime.

            I'll agree with you that it shouldn't be.

            But when you apply to a job with the police force, or when your name comes up as a potential nominee as a federal judge, I won't give a rats a$$ that you smoked marijuana... I'll light the torches and bring out the pitch forks because you believe yourself above or better than the law and now want to help administer it.

            --
            I drank what?

            • As it happens there are a number of politicians that are known to have smoked cannabis in several Governments, who was it who famously didn't inhale, Bill Clinton

              I guess anyone who speeds for example breaks the law and it's pretty likely that many people administering the law have been guilty if not charged of doing so in their misspent youth. Torches and Pitchforks for this too?
              So it depends which crime not legality in its self?

              The real issue is that due to most drug use being illegal it means that your us

          • by GregNorc (801858)

            If I was doing hiring and came across parent's post I wouldn't hire them...

            Not because of his position on marijuana - I take a pretty pragmatic approach to that sort of thing: if someone's drug use is a problem, it'll manifest in other ways (Showing up late, not making deadlines, etc) that their are already policies to deal with.

            However, I don't think I'd hire someone who can't even use capital letters properly...

            Being judged on your merits can be a double edged sword parent.

        • by Patch86 (1465427)

          Ah, but therein lies utopia!

          You see, it's true that if you post that you've experimented with marijuana then everyone will be able to find that out forever. But that applies to everybody. It's estimated that 25% of adult Brits have experimented with drugs at some point- and that's based on a voluntary study (the real figure is liable to be higher). It'd be a lot more difficult for parliament to argue drug users are evil monsters if they know a quarter of them have tried it themselves (and can actually look

        • by gemada (974357)
          hopefully marijuana will go back to being legal by then. the "war on drugs" is about as fruitful as a "war on the weather" would be. it could only be considered a success if the original goal was to help create the private prison industry in the US.
          • How come Some drugs can be banned with a simple law, but banning the drug known as alcohol required a constitutional amendment? Hmmm. I suspect banning marijuana also requires an amendment, just like alcohol, but the Congress, President, and Supreme Court conveniently ignore that restriction.

            Constitution - "Just words on a page."

        • by quanticle (843097)

          I'm of two minds about this. I'd like to be able to disagree with you; to say that by 2020 everyone will be used to people sharing things about their lives, so that revelations like your example will be a non-issue. At the same time, I'm afraid that nothing will change, that we'll be held to the same standards as today, with far more information available to the general public about how we've failed to meet those standards at some point in our lives.

          Still, I hope for the best.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Albio (854216)
      Yet the moment you try to archive your files to slashdot for later retrieval you'll find that the site has crashed and lost all data.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by WidgetGuy (1233314)
      Not only that, but anything that anyone else has posted about you.

      I once found a document that noted my (real) name and that I had been a member of an amateur rock group that had won a 1964 "battle of the bands" contest at my high school. The name of the city and state I lived in at the time was also in this document. Not hard for some prospective employer to determine my age (roughly) from that posting. When that information was "fresh," not even ARPANET existed (if memory serves) except, maybe, somwh
      • by eltaco (1311561)

        amen brother. that's what I'm especially worried about. I don't have anything to hide, but I still don't want data about my personal life floating around in cyberspace.
        recently I recieved spam addressed with my actual real name - I was close to shock. I've been on the net since the mid nineties and never disclosed my real name, DOB, address or other personal and identifiable information.
        The only time I ever did this was when buying something via credit card from a trusted site or when registering a domain.

  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Friday February 27, 2009 @05:17PM (#27017033)
    While I believe that "information wants to be free", that can have negative consequences as well. Just as we were forced (and it is true, we were) to regulate all kinds of physical businesses (power, chemical, the list is huge) so that they did not pollute us to death, it will probably be necessary to regulate information businesses in a like manner.
    • Problem here is that nobody does nor can have complete jurisdiction over the information. Don't like how the EU or US does privacy, want to run amuck and do whatever you want, there are plenty of eastern european countries as well as those in the far east or africa willing to turn a blind eye. So how exact do you propose to regulate something that transcends borders?

      • by vandelais (164490)

        Problem here is that nobody does nor can have complete jurisdiction over the information. Don't like how the EU or US does privacy, want to run amuck and do whatever you want, there are plenty of eastern european countries as well as those in the far east or africa willing to turn a blind eye. So how exact do you propose to regulate something that transcends borders?

        International pressure on the Swiss Bankers. Either that or explosives placed properly in the dead of night courtesy of the CIA may cause an avalanche.

      • In what way do you think it transcends borders?

        Other countries have demanded -- and gotten -- extradition of people who broke their laws, over the Internet, from within the United States. What makes you think that if the United States had privacy laws, that others would not be subject to them? Of course there will probably always be somebody who will, or will try to, get away with it, but that is true of everything. Not all nations have extradition treaties with the U.S. and so on, of course.

        But that
        • Other countries have demanded -- and gotten -- extradition of people who broke their laws, over the Internet, from within the United States.

          Really? I thought the constitution forbade it. There's plenty of examples of it happening the other way round.

    • by Rob Riggs (6418)

      We already to do a greater degree than most realize. Sure, there's HIPAA and others for data security that many folks know about. But there are other regulations on data quality, such as the U.S. postal service requiring a certain standard of data hygiene, called CASS certification [usps.gov], in order to do bulk mailings.

      • Yes but there are other kinds of information that are not properly regulated. Take for example the recent loss of data concerning millions of customers of a certain large bank, which was transporting that data to a backup facility in plain text on tape. Shouldn't the bank be held responsible for such gross negligence? Of course they should. But we won't get that without proper regulations.
        • by Rob Riggs (6418)

          GLBA covers the bank data fiasco you mention. What we don't have is an enforcement arm. Laws against rape and murder are fairly useless without cops on the street. Same goes for laws governing corporate conduct.

    • by grumbel (592662)

      I doubt that regulation could stop the data from accumulating, after all many people want to have their data out there, twitter, facebook, blogs, youtube and all that stuff works by users publishing stuff on their own, not by evil companies collecting things behind your back, and those things will only grow when storage and bandwidth become less of an issue. I think what could need regulation is how that data is handled, just as you can't discriminate people due to their skin color, maybe one shouldn't be a

  • scary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blhack (921171) on Friday February 27, 2009 @05:19PM (#27017061)

    Look at what happens to people when the run for office. We found some pictures of Barack Obama when he did some joke modeling thing with one of his friends in college (or something like that).

    Can you imagine if we had a searchable index of every single conversation a presidental or senatorial candidate had ever had?
    Imagine being in your 40s and having to account for a "private" conversation that you had 20 years ago at 2:00am when you were drunk.
    *shudder*
    Guys, this isn't some crazy whackjob ranting about the evil government. This is reality! My username can, with not a whole lot of work, be tied to me in real life. If somebody wanted to, they could go back through every single comment I had ever made on any message board or blog that I use this handle on.

    Scary. Really really scary. My bet is that almost everybody is in this same boat. Google has made it TOO easy to find things.

    • Re:scary (Score:4, Insightful)

      by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland@y[ ]o.com ['aho' in gap]> on Friday February 27, 2009 @05:23PM (#27017103) Homepage Journal

      That's not a problem becasue no one will care. IT's on thing to look at one person and see them do something 'wrong'. but when you look around and everyone is doing it, no one cares.

      ITs not scary, and if you wanted a username that can't be traced back to you, you could do that.

      Sure, I've dome some monster stupid stunts, but who cares?

      • Re:scary (Score:4, Interesting)

        by berend botje (1401731) on Friday February 27, 2009 @05:30PM (#27017169)
        Why you are right: nobody cares about things a random user on the internet does.

        Why you are wrong: when "blhack" gets interesting in a social, political or whatever function, then this old, stale information will still be there. And you'd better believe 'they' will drag it out of the noise here.

        Remedy: don't have your online presence be linked back to real life. Change usernames often (I once had an four digit /. account). And it helps to have a common name in real life. Hard to filter for the right John Smith, twinty years after the fact.
        • by MightyYar (622222)

          People won't care if you are up front about it. The politicians get in trouble when they get caught because they pretend to be virtuous.

          Some real-life examples:
          o Arnold Schwarzenegger has done too many things to list, including steroid use.
          o George Bush was caught drunk driving
          o Barack Obama admits pot and cocaine use

          Most people got into some kind of trouble as a kid, or at the very least made some bad judgments. The difference between scandal and a good story is how up front you are about it.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by D Ninja (825055)

            All people got into some kind of trouble as a kid, or at the very least made some bad judgments.

            Fixed that for you. Everybody is human. We all make mistakes and we have to learn from them. Too many people get their "holier than thou" attitude (and this is EVERYBODY - religious or not, rich or not, whatever) and like to forget the things they've done and judge whoever it is on the chopping block.

            While I know many people here tend to shy away from religion, there is an interesting story in the Bible where the prostitute was going to be stoned. The way the story goes (trying to cut down the size of m

        • by maxume (22995)

          I'd rather find out that some dillhole is worried about something I said 15 years ago straight away. Spending my time making sure I am hidden away from dillholes sounds horrible.

          Sure, this may inconvenience me in a great many ways, but no amount of convenience is worth letting tiresome biddies run the world.

        • by JWSmythe (446288)

          > Hard to filter for the right JW Smythe, twenty years after the fact.

          There, fixed that for you. :)

          Aliases are a strange yet powerful thing. Mr. JW Smythe has been seen all across the Internet. There have been a few of us. What's funnier is, there are more people of my real name to be found. A search for me, as noted on my real birth certificate, find quite a few me's. Some are in the same city, but different addresses. Several are found in every state, including ones

        • by Strake (982081)

          And it helps to have a common name in real life.

          From now on, you may call me Muhammad.

    • Hopefully the end result in the future will be that no one is offended, embarrassed, or judgmental about this personal information being disclosed. If everyone's embarrassing moments are available for all to see, maybe we will stop acting with such contrived outrage at these incidents. Everyone does embarrassing things, lets stop judging others so harshly for them. If everyone knows everything about everyone, it is very hard to be hypocritical.

      Now I know this is not the full answer; sometimes we keep thi

    • It might be possible to use Google to build a coincidental case that a certain handle belongs to a particular individual, but just as an IP address is not absolute proof of identity (i.e. the person getting the bill from the ISP is not necessarily the only one using the account) neither is a handle absolute proof that a particular individual was behind the posts. There will always be a certain amount of plausible deniability with these sorts of things provided that user(s) of the handle do not out their rea
  • I was with you... (Score:2, Flamebait)

    by Duradin (1261418)

    I was with you through your point about pollution but why'd you have to go off the deep end with human-caused climate change?

    That's like putting in a reference to a flat earth with the sun orbiting it within a 6,000 year old universe with dinosaur fossils and light from stars beyond 6,000 light-years away put in place to test the believers in an otherwise sane piece.

    • I was with you through your point about pollution but why'd you have to go off the deep end with human-caused climate change?

      It's interesting that some people can find issues where there are none. Like people looking for child porn can find it in Wikipedia articles, and religious preachers can find satanic messages when listening to Rock and Roll records backwards.

      • by Duradin (1261418)
        It's just sad to see an otherwise rational person give in to something that has issues with finding the SUVs used to get rid of the glaciers that used to cover a good chunk of the continent. Though eventually I'm sure they'll find those big ol' evil caveman coal fired powerplants that brought us out of the last ice age.
  • Well (Score:1, Troll)

    by alexborges (313924)

    First of all: Schneier is not "like" chuck norris. He IS chuck norris.

    Having said that, I think that someone "up there" needs to start listening to this guy: we are on the verge of big brother and we happily go online and pay for some old gizmo on ebay.

    Tomorrow, ebay will give us automatic sign-on with our webcam. We will tout it as "great" and think nothing of them having our pic along all the data of what we buy or not, our credit record will go to banks, which will then be able to cross-refference it all

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by geekoid (135745)

      "..verge of big brother .."

      AAAAAAHHHHHH!!!
      Clearly you didn't understand the book.

      A) Elected officials change.

      B) If everyone has the information, then the information can not be redacted

      C) With global information it is harder to lie to your people about who you ahve always been at war with(create tension with)

      D) Our Cameras point both ways.

      E) The technology that would be needed for 'big brother' is available to all, not controll be a government

      F) I don't ahve to sneak away to some abandoned house with my lov

  • There will be no privacy in the future, and therefore no crime. Technology improvements in cameras, microphones, etc will keep on improving so much that we will eventually end up living in a technological and political Utopia. Do to genetic and behavioral profiling we will stop crime before it even happens.

    Continuing political improvements and progress in the law and the technology to enforce the law means we will be safer, richer, and happier.

    • by foobsr (693224)
      Continuing political improvements and progress in the law and the technology to enforce the law means we will be safer, richer, and happier.

      Amen.

      CC.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I just hope you're being satirical.

      *shudder*

    • And much, much more boring...

      --
      I drank what?

  • I want to see David Brin's response to this, in the light of The Transparent Society [davidbrin.com].

    • by fjanss (897687)
      Yes, that whould be an interesting debate.

      Is the information quantity the problem? Or is it the imbalance between those who have access to it and those who do not?

  • Not possible (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Dreen (1349993)

    This time around, maybe we can be a little more proactive.

    Different people will make same mistakes that our fathers did. They will learn from their mistakes, just as our fathers learned, but the next time around new people will make same mistakes again anyway.

  • by jd (1658) <imipak@yahoo.cEINSTEINom minus physicist> on Friday February 27, 2009 @05:37PM (#27017265) Homepage Journal

    ...is not nearly as much of a problem as the proliferation of noise with respect to signal. In the end, whatever survives is whatever is dominant (ie: the most successful in the environment) which is not the same as whatever is actually useful. If noise is the dominant element, then noise is what will endure and the signal will die. It will be out-competed. Basic darwinism.

    THIS is the pollution, not the persistence of information. There's probably not much more real information being produced now than there was at any time in the Age of Enlightenment, so it really doesn't matter if it persists. It'd be great if it persisted better. The problem is the creeping crud. This isn't about freedom to express oneself, since that is also information (sometimes too much information, in another sense of the term). Nobody claims a Nigerian scammer is expressing themselves. Well, if you DO claim that, I've a few billion in gold that could be yours if you just supply me with some information first.

    • When it comes to privacy, noise may be a solution rather than a problem. Vernor Vinge suggested that if the Net remembers everything about you, you should flood it with contradictory noise that provides plausible deniability about things that are actually true. Either that, or they'll have more evidence against you.

      • It ought to work this way, but the way our courts work today plausible deniability seems difficult to achieve. Flooding the Net with noise just gives more evidence for prosecutors and investigators to cherry pick from. In civil proceedings there is no such thing as beyond a reasonable doubt.

        Even if you are changing ids and using anonymizers, we already have linguistic analysis software that can take samples of your writing and establish with some degree of confidence which ids are your aliases.

        So I'm
    • by aukset (889860)

      I understand why you analogize pollution with noise, but it is not what TFS is trying to convey. The analogy to pollution is a warning about the unintended consequences of information persistence, not the purity of the information.

  • a few things (Score:2, Interesting)

    I can't read tfa at work.

    A few things. Change the law such that:

    a) as little data as possible needs to be given up in the first place
    b) when possible, non-identifying data should be used
    b) data needs to be retained for as short of a time period as possible

    As usual, these are precisely the things that will not be done, and will in fact be fought against by society at all levels. Because we're idiots.

    And as usual, if we actually did those things, then we might have less law and more liberty. Oh the horror.

  • But the information age isn't going to survive a whole lot beyond the age of fossil fuels.

    Why?
    1. the physical components of IT are often made of oil or natgas.
    2. the energy density and physical quality of oil makes it the best fuel and one of the best sources for a vast variety of materials.
    3. the environmental demands for IT are extra-ordinary - from clean rooms to high intensity lasers - it requires insane amounts of energy and truly peculiar materials native to fossil fuels.
    4. the economic requirem

    • We can go on and on about wind power, or nuclear, or solar or whatever. So far, for all the wind power we can generate (and I've been to altamont - I've seen the towers) we have yet to have a windmill make a windmill. Because it can't. Energy is not materials, and technology is not energy. We have yet to see a set of solar panels build another set of solar panels.

      I note that you have conveniently left out nuclear energy in your examples.

      It's just that facts are facts. You can't live outside the laws of ther

    • Don't worry about a humungus pile of digital information. I would worry about keeping BASIC information, like how to make soap at home, and candles out of fat, and keeping it in a form that won't disappear when Microsoft deems it worthy of DRM.

      If you're really worried about that, why don't you do some research and write a book on that stuff, and "print" it on something more durable than the typical book material. I bet you'd get a lot of buyers.

      Now let's see.. clay tablets are probably the most enduring m

    • by maxume (22995)

      Wait, why won't nuclear work?

      There is a blurb in a recent Scientific American that states there is tens of thousands of years of uranium in the ocean. There isn't currently technology that can obtain the uranium, but if it comes down to a choice between your sad-face distopia and some radiation, do you really think people are going to choose a distopia?

      Here's the blurb:

      http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=how-long-will-global-uranium-deposits-last [sciam.com]

  • the internet is a series of servers and wires beyond your control. please note: BEYOND YOUR CONTROL. therefore, regardless of any law, written in bold 72 pt font in blood, no one can reasonably expect anything to be private on this system. buried in your deskdrawer, in your house, there you can find privacy. on the wide open internet, the very notion of privacy is philosophically impossible, like oil and water, the two concepts

    furthermore, much of what people are shocked to find that the internet can know about them is detritus. pointless bits and pieces. in other words, no facts about yourself that anyone would consider seriously private in terms of anything that can damage you, unless you are some sort of hysteric. were it even to be found and associated with you, needle in a haystack this stuff is, the very effort that be mustered to even care is ridiculous. yeah, its "private" facts about you in that it is associated with you personally. but the to me the notion of privacy includes some sort of horrible damagin facts about you

    and even beyond that, much of this detritus wouldn't exist without the internet in the first place. its not like you had some sort of private facts about yourself, then the internet came along and stole them from you. no, these random bits and pieces about your life only exist because YOU choose to go out on the internet and PUT it there

    finally, it is entirely possible to manage your online identity in such a way that what goes on there, behind this moniker or on that site or in this newsgroup or on that facebook page or with that avatar or in that email: you consciously manage what is disclosed and what isn't under that rubrik. this really is nothing new or weird. people, in real life, long before the internet, often managed different parts of their identity in different social spheres of their life

    in short, privacy on the internet is:

    1. impossible. not legally impossible, but beyond that: philosophically impossible
    2. pointless. mediocre bits of flotsam and jetsam where you have to be quite a hysterical person to even care that someone else knows this about you
    3. native to the internet. without the internet, this detritus wouldn't exist in the first place. no privacy was "stolen" from you. its the same half-witted reasoning that calls file sharing "stealing" and "piracy". you PUT the information there, with your full conscious authorization of the implications involved
    4. completely normal and in line with the entire human history of identity plasticity, manipulation, and management

    in short, why the HELL do people get so worked up over this bullshit concept of privacy on the internet. there is none! just accept reality, move on

    i honestly believe that kids in their teens, and younger, would find this entire conversation just plain weird. that if you grow up with the internet, this entire issue is beyond understanding, simply because what you do on the internet and privacy is i think natively understood by those who grow up with the internet to be disconnected concepts

    tempest in a teapot. an absurd and pointless topic

  • It seems to me the that fining businesses something around $50 or $100 per item of information in the event of a data breach would cause an abrupt end to the age of persistence. Collect name, e-mail address, billing address, shipping address, credit card number, phone number, and records of three invoices? That's $450 or $900 per customer in the event some employee loses a laptop with the customer database on it. Some company getting a $10,000,000 fine would a) make the government bean counters happy, b)
    • And make the government the sole holder of this information...

      At least our new corporate overlords need us for something other than our tax money -- as cogs in their vast metropolis...

      --
      I drank what?

  • I propose a cap & trade system for forwarded emails and Facebook updates.

  • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Saturday February 28, 2009 @01:32AM (#27020695) Journal

    Why do we need privacy? Invariably the reason seems to be: "I don't want others to know what I am doing".

    Followed by: "because they might do something harmful to me because of it". (there is another argument as well, which I will cover after this one)

    Actually, that last bit is NOT the way people usually say it, but I said it that way to make my point easier.

    We know that in history there have been times that it was very bad to have certain people know something about you. Godwin be damned, but having people know your religion was not always something good. Nazi germany used "harmless" census data gathered earlier to exterminate those who to them had undesirable census data.

    Privacy advocates would argue that if this census data had NOT contained religion, it would have been better, but would it? A similar bit of potential census data was used by another organization to hunt down those it found undesirable. The KKK. Skin color. That you can't keep private/hidden away. If you are black, you are black and it tends to be fairly noticable unless you want to go to the most extreme forms of privacy (burka).

    Blacks being prosecuted by white racists did NOT benefit from the fact that the US did not collect skin color in its census data. So in this dark era of the previous century, privacy would not have protected those lynched in the US.

    Would it have protected the jews in europe? Some, but not all. Those who hid away their religion, because they were only related to jews but not actually religious themselves or had learned not to be noticed might have had better changes. But any jew who practiced his/her faith would have been noticed regardless of census data and suffered the same fate.

    The privacy advocates suffer from the fact that they are looking at the short term and only at information that can be hidden if you all wish to confirm to the majority world view. Take the constant cases of online communities banning homosexuals who dare to come out of the closet online. Recent example Xbox-live, banning a lesbian for daring to be a lesbian. As long as she blends in with the majority (or at least the mob) she was safe. Keep her sexuality private.

    But is this what we want as a society?

    Let me know make my point.

    We would be better off in a society where we had no privacy but nobody was prosecuted for information about their person.

    A jew in nazi germany would have been better off if the fact that a person was jewish did NOT matter. Well DUH you might say but think about it. If society doesn't judge you based on your sexuality then there is no reason for it to be private. Simple example: Blondes. We all know that blondes are dumb, ergo you might wish this information to be private so you are not judged on your hair color in your job application. Silly? Well there are experiments to just that with nationality in job applications to stop people being discriminated against based on where they were born. BUT place of birth needs ONLY be private IF you are judged on it. If there was no discrimination, there would be no need to keep things hidden.

    So for instance the law against age limits in jobs and that you do NOT have to list your age on a resume is just a lazy privacy law against the real problem of age discrimination. If we got rid of age discrimination, we would I think have a better society then a society in which your age is private.

    Why? Again, the xbox-live example or for that matter, the white black man, or the gentile jew. As long as the lesbian, the black person or the jew blend into the crowd, behave like the mob and don't stand out, they were somewhat safe. Until the mob decides that their behaviour ain't enough like the mob. Note that the lesbian might also wish to hide that she is a female on a gaming network.

    Just how free is a society where you are allowed to be a different religion just as long as it isn't known by society?

    Privacy laws like this are ONLY known as long as we allow society to discrimi

    • by scruffy (29773)

      We would be better off in a society where we had no privacy but nobody was prosecuted for information about their person.

      I can almost agree with that. I can see two (or three) difficulties.

      One is that it is not only prosecution, but discrimination by employers, insurers, banks, etc. If I gripe about my employer 100 years ago, it probably stays private, but if you gripe online now, it can easily become public, and you get fired. I am not sure how you prevent discrimination based on any of 1000 attributes of personal information. It's easier to uncover discrimination when it's just a few attributes, but a much larger s

  • I find the concept of the "Life recorder" quite interesting. This idea has been around for awhile, but when reading the article or the comments below it, more dimensions then simply preserving the day to day experience came to my attention. For example, it was mentioned that perhaps a Life recorder - transmitting data recorded to remote data storage in real time - could identify the assailant of a person who was attacked or robbed. Such a thing could also identify who was at fault if you were involved in a

  • "Just as we look back at the beginning of the previous century and shake our heads at how people could ignore the pollution they caused, future generations will look back at us -- living in the early decades of the information age -- and judge our solutions to the proliferation of data."

    I think that statement is quite insightful. Thanks for taking
    time out of the busy day to think about the future.

    Now to go and watch %90 of the information go to ...

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