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Data Miners Scraping Away Our Privacy 142

Posted by Soulskill
from the hopefully-they-get-trapped-in-a-chilean-digitial-mine dept.
Presto Vivace writes "Twig, writing for Corrente, reports on data scrapers. They are not looking for passwords and such; scrapers are looking at blogs and forums searching for material relevant to their corporate clients. We are assured that the information is 'anonymized' to protect the identities of forum participants. However, a tool called PeekYou permits users to connect online names with real world identities. No worries, though — if you have a week to spare, you can opt-out of some of the larger data banks."
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Data Miners Scraping Away Our Privacy

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  • Shrug. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <`Satanicpuppy' `at' `gmail.com'> on Friday October 15, 2010 @09:11AM (#33907656) Journal

    The biggest issue with information on the internet has always been how to separate the crap from the good stuff. The fact that they're gathering data is uninteresting: what I'd be interested in is their signal-to-noise ratio.

    • by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Friday October 15, 2010 @10:45AM (#33908794)
      "Shrug?" You obviously haven't been burned. I was foolish enough to send emails to a mailing list for a chronic medical condition under my real name, and now if you search for it you get all those stupid sites with misspelled URLs that show the searchable full text. The list admin went bonkers hiring lawyers and everyone unsubscribed in a hurry. I guess people do visit those sites if they're looking at it from the perspective of a signal to noise ratio.
      • Sure, the ratio is low for you, but what about for people who have the same name you do? Now the information out there under their name is inaccurate. For them the ratio is very high.

        My given name is very common, so searching for information on me the signal to noise ratio is very high. This problem is extraordinarily hard to solve, and I'd be very surprised if they'd figured it out.

        • My given name is very common, so searching for information on me the signal to noise ratio is very high.

          Come again? Why is this a problem that's extraordinarily hard to solve, rather than just good fortune?

          I would think "John Doe" searches would be noisy. But usually you don't want to see signal when you Google yourself; most people hope for noise. My own name is rare enough for my mother to confront me with WTF emails about 20 year old "signals" on alt.drugs. Even in 1990 it wasn't safe to shoot your mouth off on the Internet under your real name, but IIRC everyone still did.

          • It's not hard for me to solve, it's a hard problem for the data miners. Any search for me ends up with tens of thousands of false positives, which they have to eliminate to identify the records that actually belong to me.

            Pretty much the only thing you'll see if you Google me is noise. I'm pretty careful.

  • by quietwalker (969769) <pdughi@gmail.com> on Friday October 15, 2010 @09:15AM (#33907684)

    If it's posted in a public space - it's not private
    If it's accessible via public records - it's not private
    If it occurs in a public forum - it's not private
    If, for legal reasons, it must be disclosed in public - it's not private ... and so on.

    If someone were to compile that set of information in an easy-to-read for, complete with a table of contents and nice index, that is also not invasion of privacy.
    Using a computer to do the heavy lifting and reducing the time required to match everything together is also not invasion of privacy.

    Listen, if you're talking about the privacy of your public information, and you're threatened by search engines, you are relying on security through obscurity. At least the people here on slashdot should recognize the follow of that.

    • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Friday October 15, 2010 @09:18AM (#33907730)
      I think the real issue here is that we need to rethink our notions of "privacy." It used to be that having a normal social life meant that outside of your social circle, you had a measure of privacy -- someone would have to actually be part of your social circle to learn about you. That is no longer true, but we still have not quite caught up with that new reality.
      • by hedwards (940851) on Friday October 15, 2010 @09:36AM (#33907938)
        Or perhaps we need to rethink the ways that we regulate companies. There is an adjustment that needs to be made to our thinking, but that's mainly because of blackmail and possible random chance.

        What you're suggesting is that just because corporations now have the affordable tools necessary to spy on us constantly that we should deal with it and they should be allowed to do it. Which is complete bullshit.

        The real answer is requiring companies to ask permission and bar them from trying to compel people to give them the permission. It's one thing to require a drug test and background check for a job, but it's quite another to include in that background check data scraping off the net.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          How exactly do we require those companies to get permission, especially when our own government has an interest in this sort of behavior, and to some degree, in having other companies do the dirty work for them?

          The problem is that people have not yet awoken to the idea that old notions of privacy no longer apply. Until the majority of people realize that the game has changed, there will not be any meaningful regulation (why would anyone vote for it, if they do not perceive a problem that needs to be sol
          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            I don't know how to stop the government, other than by enforcing Amendment 10 (the US was never granted permission to spy, therefore it should not do it).

            As for corporations, I'd like to see all their licenses revoked, and reverted to proprietorships where a sole person(s) is the owner and therefore directly accountable for his actions. I no longer believe in the concept of limited liability. The owners need to held to account for their actions, including jail time for invasion of privacy or abuse of cust

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              I'm with you on disbanding corporations and restructuring the system, holding people accountable for their actions, except that the same argument applies: the general population needs to wake up before that can happen.
              • Disband corporations? Seriously? I want some of whatever you are smoking.
                Good god man, get some perspective.

                You clearly have no idea what makes the USA work and apparently, you don't understand why the USA is a superpower. Hint: our corporations are partly responsible.

                I realize it is not a perfect system. Nobody has ever claimed it is. But it's the best one we know of. Out of curiosity, what the heck would you replace corporations with?
            • by schwit1 (797399) on Friday October 15, 2010 @11:22AM (#33909224)

              'I don't know how to stop the government, other than by enforcing Amendment 10 (the US was never granted permission to spy, therefore it should not do it).'

              The problem here is that other parts of the Constitution have been interpreted as trumping the 10th amendment. The commerce clause for example has not been interpreted as written or intended since FDR days. This alone has made the federal government all powerful.

              • Wait until there's a Libertarian or libertarian-leaning or Constitutionalist president (i.e. not the last two presidents).
                Then shoot all 9 Justices. Or just the ones who believe the US has power to regulate INTRAstate commerce (it does not).
                Replace.

                Or a less violent solution: Amend the constitution to strike "regulate interstate commerce" from the Constitution.

                "The question whether the judges are invested with exclusive authority to decide on the constitutionality of a law has been heretofore a subject of

                • >>>Amend the constitution to strike "regulate commerce among the several States" from the Constitution.

                  I've never understood how the courts could be confused by this line? It clearly says AMONG the states. What happens inside the states is none of the US government's business. If I want to grow corn and sell it to my neighbors, I can. The only government which can regulate me is the State, not the central fucks in DCs

          • How exactly do we require those companies to get permission, especially when our own government has an interest in this sort of behavior, and to some degree, in having other companies do the dirty work for them?

            Judging from past examples, nothing will be done until we riot en masse. Burn down DC (on general principle) and a few other cities and things will change.

        • by saider (177166) on Friday October 15, 2010 @10:05AM (#33908300)

          The companies are already regulated. I regulate facebook by not using it. I don't twitter. The blogs I join that require an address have me listed as "Bill Clinton, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington DC 20050" I don't do these things because I don't want the world knowing my business (not that the world would care).

          If you choose to give them all your info and tell them all about what you like and where you go, then that is your business. But at what point do you start wondering "How do they pay their staff and keep the servers on?".

          If you don't want them to do something nefarious with your info, don't give it to them. There is no need for some government entity to impose rules to protect you.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510)

            If you don't want them to do something nefarious with your info, don't give it to them. There is no need for some government entity to impose rules to protect you.

            Where do you draw the line?

            When facebook retro-actively changes what they promise to do and not do with the information people give them?
            What about say, a store, quietly installing a system to read and record the license plate of every car that enters their parking lot?
            Or when an entire industry becomes so used to routine privacy violations that even walk-in medical clinics refuse service to cash-only patients who won't disclose their name, address, etc?

            • by saider (177166)

              When facebook retro-actively changes what they promise to do and not do with the information people give them?
              The point isn't what a company promises to do, but rather what you give the company. Even if a company "promises" not to sell my data, I know that that promise isn't worth the paper it is printed on, so I provide as little information as possible, or bogus information, in order to get the service. Or I don't get the service. But I don't try to shift the responsibility of my privacy to someone else.

              • What about say, a store, quietly installing a system to read and record the license plate of every car that enters their parking lot?

                That is their parking lot and a public place, where I have no expectation of privacy. Why should they be banned from this behavior? Consider the flip side. Am I allowed to put up a camera on my property that photographs everyone that comes to my door?

                And when the practice gets to the point where it is impossible to even purchase basic necessities without having your presence logged, you are fine with that? When it ultimately becomes a choice between the life of a shut in and having your every movement beyond your own property permanently logged how can that make for a healthy society?

                Bogus name and address solves this problem. You're not doing this under oath, and as long as you are paying the entire bill before you leave, there is no fraud.

                I figured you would come down to that argument - that's why I threw it in there. I say it is entirely bogus that one needs to lie in order to transact basic commerce and

                • by saider (177166)

                  And when the practice gets to the point where it is impossible to even purchase basic necessities without having your presence logged, you are fine with that? When it ultimately becomes a choice between the life of a shut in and having your every movement beyond your own property permanently logged how can that make for a healthy society?
                  You can claim to have a right to privacy, but that does not mean that others are forbidden to watch you. You do not have a right to invisibility. At some point you have to

                  • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                    by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510)

                    You can claim to have a right to privacy, but that does not mean that others are forbidden to watch you. You do not have a right to invisibility. At some point you have to accept that people you don't know will know things about you from watching you. Don't call up the privacy police to regulate an entity that uses voluntarily supplied information.

                    That's a complete side-step of the question. For one thing - it is no longer voluntarily supplied information when it is impossible to live a regular life without disclosing significant amounts of information. Nobody sane can think that will make for a healthy society, which is why I think you avoided answering that question.

                    Remember, this whole discussion was about businesses scraping blogs and social sites, NOT about the forced extraction of information. You're getting off to a different (but related) topic.

                    Another side-step. The point here is to take the belief that underlies your rationalization in one area and apply the same rationalization to another area and see if it still makes s

                    • by saider (177166)

                      it is no longer voluntarily supplied information when it is impossible to live a regular life without disclosing significant amounts of information
                      The article and the discussion is about companies scraping blogs and forums and mining the data. None of these sites are "mandatory" or "involuntary".

                      As far as your argument that public activities will get amassed into a massive public database, I don't think there is a clear line where you can say this is right and this is wrong. A property owner who puts up a s

                    • How do you reconcile your privacy that with the freedom to record things in public places? At some point, you need to realize that when you are out in public, people can and will observe and record you. You might not like it, but what remedy do you take?

                      While I have some ideas on the issue, I think the most important point is to acknowledge that simple ideas like "no expectation of privacy in public" are from an age in which pervasive surveillance was not only impossible, but mostly unthinkable. Technology has advanced but the law has not kept up except in certain limited areas - like the recording of cellphone conversations - technically its legal to record any EM radiation passing through your property, after all its out in the public, but thanks to the

                    • by saider (177166)

                      What would you propose for your example of security cameras scanning license plates?

                    • What would you propose for your example of security cameras scanning license plates?

                      I'd start off with the concept that there should be a principle of avoiding over-collection of personally identifiable information. That data from ANPR in public of cars without criminal suspicion should be limited to a day or two at most - and absolutely no integrating with other databases, its collected only for after the fact issues of crime and safety.

                      FWIW, I also think that a home-owner recording the license plate of everybody who parks in his driveway is significantly different from recording the com

                  • by sjames (1099)

                    There is a line that many corporations have stepped over.

                    You might see me when I'm out and about. No big deal. If our routes to and from work coincide, you might see me every day. No big deal there. That just makes you a person that sometimes sees me. Perhaps once in a while you see me at the grocery store. Also no big deal.

                    However, as soon as you start following me around so that you "just happen" to see what store I shop at, "just happen" to write down everything that goes in my cart, "just happen" to not

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Schadrach (1042952)

                Only so long as your camera never photographs a law enforcement officer, theoretically a servant of the public, in the line of duty. Because then, you know, you might have evidence of them doing something untoward.

        • "What you're suggesting is that just because corporations now have the affordable tools necessary to spy on us constantly that we should deal with it and they should be allowed to do it."

          Except this is the exact opposite of spying. Spying is where one party goes through the trouble of finding out what another has kept hidden. In this case, it's one party simply compiling what another person has made public (even if doing so unknowingly). The problem is the people, and what they're making public, not the

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by Mr. Slippery (47854)

            In this case, it's one party simply compiling what another person has made public (even if doing so unknowingly). The problem is the people, and what they're making public, not the company - or individual - who is compiling it.

            No, the problem is very much the people compiling and selling this information.

            I am the author of my life; the information these leeches are compiling about me is a derivative work. Commercial use of such data (outside of fair use considerations) is a violation of my Subjectright [wearcam.org].

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by rufty_tufty (888596)

          Fast forward a few years and what happens when everyone with an internet connection has access to that data for free from Google Stalk or whatever it appears as on their labs page?
          Information wants to be free works both ways...
          Could make job interviews quite interesting when you've gStalked your interviewer, know what websites they all liked and all the past candidates and use this in your bargaining process.

        • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Friday October 15, 2010 @10:45AM (#33908784)

          The real answer is requiring companies to ask permission and bar them from trying to compel people to give them the permission. It's one thing to require a drug test and background check for a job, but it's quite another to include in that background check data scraping off the net.

          It's called the rigth to informational self-determinism [wikimedia.org]

          And BTW, pre-employment drug tests are bullshit 999 out of a thousand - they are the result of the intersection between moralists and insurance liability since actual continued testing to maintain employment is illegal except in the most limited of safety-critical situations - might as well test for STDs for all the good it does.

          • My employer has random drug testing as a condition of employment. Some subset of the employees operate some manner of heavy equipment on a day-to-day basis and everyone else at least has access to company vehicles, so that may have something to do with it.

            • FWIW, I'm willing to bet that the fact that they apply random drug testing to the entire workforce is out of some lawyer's simplistic view of non-discrimination and I bet it wouldn't hold up in court if someone who was not a heavy machinery operator was fired for testing positive. But I'm an optimist in that way and we are doomed to be disappointed.

              Plus, illegal drug use isn't the only way to be impaired - lack of sleep, coming to work when they should have taken a sick day, being emotionally distraught ov

        • How would you prevent them from compelling people to give that permission? I mean, at the very least, they could simply bin any applications that don't give them permission -- if you want to even be considered, then give us permission to spy on you.

        • It's one thing to require a drug test and background check for a job, but it's quite another to include in that background check data scraping off the net.

          How odd... I have the complete opposite feeling.

          Ask me to piss in a cup, or give a blood sample? No.

          Pay a PI or data-mining company to give you a summary of whatever information is available online regarding me. Go for it.

          But then again, I am a math/tech-geek. I know what kind of information is out there. I know that e-mail is as private as passing a note in grade school. I know that wi-fi is as private as shouting across a crowded room. I know that an A to B conversation can be spread by B to C, D, E

        • Or maybe we should build better systems to empower regular users towards a more "transparent society" like David Brin talks about and an improved collective IQ like Doug Engelbart talks about?

          Or, as I said here about intelligence tools, but would apply equally well with a fascistic/plutocratic binding together of corporations and governance like is increasingly the norm in the USA:
          http://pcast.ideascale.com/a/dtd/76207-8319 [ideascale.com]
          "Now, there are many people out there (including computer scientists)

        • The real answer is requiring companies to ask permission and bar them from trying to compel people to give them the permission. It's one thing to require a drug test and background check for a job, but it's quite another to include in that background check data scraping off the net.

          I would say the drugs test is far more invasive, but still allowable, as long as there is no compulsion to take the job, economic included.

      • by _Sprocket_ (42527)

        I think the real issue here is that we need to rethink our notions of "privacy."

        There's nothing wrong with our notions of privacy. What we need to adjust is our understanding of the motivations and mechanisms used to collect information about us. And, along those lines, how to better protect our privacy in this age.

    • Public exposure (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Friday October 15, 2010 @09:35AM (#33907914) Journal

      If I flash my privates in house but have the curtains open and so anyone from the street can see, I cannot complain about people looking and might indeed be arrested myself.

      If I do the same in a house seperated from the road by a high fence and you put a ladder on the street and use nightvision goggles to look at my dangler, YOU are going to be arrested.

      What is privacy? Is it the absolute letter of the law OR does EXPECTATION of privacy come into play?

      You can follow me night and day. BUT that is very expensive and so you don't. So my actions in public are private simply because logging them would be far to costly. So I have come to expect that my actions in public are not constantly logged. Should this now change just because it has become possible to log them all? Should it be legal to record my every movement just because total CCTV surveilance has become feasable?

      I do NOT know the answer to this question. On the one hand, I think that if you misbehave in public you should not have the right to complain "but I didn't expect anyone to catch me, so I should be free" BUT I also think that private companies being able to trace everyone constantly would be a REALLY bad idea.

      If I ask on a forum about a health issue, should my insurance company be able to use this? I think not. Sure, if I am breaking the law, making false claims. But to deny people access because they think they might have a probem? No, that is going way to far.

      Privacy is about more then things being recorded, it is about the idea that NOT everyone should constantly want to check up on everyone else. Just because I wrote a poem to a girl does NOT mean it has to be recorded by every private company in the world and be sold to the highest bidder.

      • Re:Public exposure (Score:5, Interesting)

        by crf00 (1048098) on Friday October 15, 2010 @10:50AM (#33908836) Homepage

        You missed something else: you get privacy protection in public places through publicy. Although everyone can see what you are doing, you are also protected because you can see what everyone else is doing. In physical public space, it is very hard for casual stalker to stalk anyone exactly because the stalker himself don't have privacy in public space. If someone stalks you, he can be spotted easily by you or people around you and get his reputation ruined.

        CCTV invades people's privacy by introducing asymmetry in publicy: Anyone including the CCTV can see you, but you can't see the person watching you behind the CCTV. This can actually be solved by increasing the public visibility of the watchers, for the watchers to be watched. If the security room itself has CCTV so that everyone else can see what the watchers are doing, we'll get back the publicy symmetry and get protected.

        The same can be said to public photography including smart phone cameras and street view. Traditionally, camera was large so the photographer had increased public visibility when taking photograph. Smart phones break the publicy symmetry by making it not obvious that someone is taking a photograph. To protect our privacy on being photographed, we need to increase the publicy of the photographer to make his action of taking photograph obvious. This is why making rules like the Camera Phone Predator Attack Alert Act is better than making laws that prohibit people to take photograph in public. Though, I'll not comment on whether we really need a law to enforce this, but having a rule at least allows ethical photographers to play nice with public photography.

        Google street view is just a form of intensive photography, but we can't really define how much photos taken are considered too much and thus illegal. But what we can do is to increase the publicy of the street view vehicle, so that people can notice the vehicle more easily and avoid being photographed. For example, the street view vehicle can be painted bright color, install flashing light bar, or even make noise and warning before photographing, depending on how much we're willing to trade off between visibility and annoyance. But what about those stuff that you can't move such as buildings? Well, the same as basic photography, if you refuse to move away things that you don't want to be photographed even after the photographer give full notice in public space, then the photographer has full right and to take the photograph ethically without your consent.

        You said that looking into your house from places higher than your fence is illegal, what about if I view it through a nearby multi-story apartment? If I stay at the fourth floor of the apartment and I look at your two-story house through my window, does it consider illegal? How about the children who look into your house when they are in school bus going home? You made the assumption that the world is full of low density residence where there is no higher ground or public places that are higher than one story, but that is really the minority rather than norm. If seeing your house through fence is considered privacy invasive, then today we won't have skycrappers and multistory apartment that allow us to look through any window over the next block.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pSqyEXLkrZ0 [youtube.com]

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        If I ask on a forum about a health issue, should my insurance company be able to use this? I think not. Sure, if I am breaking the law, making false claims. But to deny people access because they think they might have a probem? No, that is going way to far.

        Insurance is a scam, and it will be such until the insurance companies are forced to reveal their formulae.

      • by Qzukk (229616)

        If I flash my privates in house but have the curtains open and so anyone from the street can see, I cannot complain about people looking and might indeed be arrested myself.

        And yet if a woman forgets to close her curtains and a guy watches her change, she's not the one getting arrested.

        "Reasonable expectation of privacy" has come to mean "whatever is most convenient for cops". It's convenient for cops to just have a looksie in your windows. It's convenient for cops to go through your purse. Fuck rule of

      • If I flash my privates in house but have the curtains open

        I for one am not that interested in the privates of small furry creatures...

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by thejdog (1921406)
      Would you consider it reasonable if someone waited outside your house, and followed you every single day - all the places you go to, who you meet, etc? After all, you're using public highways and passing through public spaces. What if people employed a network of people to collate this information on you to make it easier? After all, where you go isn't necessarily private in itself, but would you be OK with people literally following every step you take and documenting it all? Does substituting technology "
    • by lseltzer (311306)

      I've had the same thought about public security cameras. If you're out in public you can't have any reasonable expectation of privacy.

  • "Opt out" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Friday October 15, 2010 @09:15AM (#33907688)
    It is a bit unnerving to think of "opting out" of something that I never consented to in any form. I am going to guess that most people are not even aware of these companies.

    Yes, I know, "Don't post data about yourself online!" That is not really the answer when most people think that Facebook is the way to be social. I do not have a Facebook profile, and I stay off of other social networking websites too; I am not going to pretend for a moment, though, that I am even close to representative of the norm. It is easy to make fun of all those "fools" out there who are undermining their own privacy, but in the end, that is not going to solve the problem, and eventually even people who want to have privacy will find that it is not possible to do so.
    • Re:"Opt out" (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Osgeld (1900440) on Friday October 15, 2010 @09:37AM (#33907948)

      YES I personally hate opt out schemes, I dont mind that my public data is public, but I hate being signed up for all sorts of BS and then being told its my responsibility to go to a billion different "services" to tell them no

      • by _Sprocket_ (42527)

        YES I personally hate opt out schemes, I dont mind that my public data is public, but I hate being signed up for all sorts of BS and then being told its my responsibility to go to a billion different "services" to tell them no

        That falls in line with email addresses. I believe an email address to be one of the most public pieces of information related to me. But I don't want to be in a situation where I have to opt-out of every spam list in the word... and the 20 that just popped in to existence during the time I was clicking the opt-out button on the last one.

    • MOD parent up, it is most definitely NOT offtopic...
    • by _Sprocket_ (42527)

      Yes, I know, "Don't post data about yourself online!" That is not really the answer when most people think that Facebook is the way to be social. I do not have a Facebook profile, and I stay off of other social networking websites too; I am not going to pretend for a moment, though, that I am even close to representative of the norm. It is easy to make fun of all those "fools" out there who are undermining their own privacy, but in the end, that is not going to solve the problem, and eventually even people who want to have privacy will find that it is not possible to do so.

      But on the other hand, there's still something to personal accountability. There are laws out there that make most cons illegal. Yet people fall for cons all the time. If these people were a little more cautious they likely wouldn't have become victims. That doesn't mean we give the conmen a free pass to fleece their victims. But we don't stop educating and warning people to watch out for themselves either.

  • by alen (225700) on Friday October 15, 2010 @09:18AM (#33907738)

    nothing more than what anyone can find about someone else online. one time a contractor ripped off my inlaws for $15000 and it took my wife and I 3-4 hours to find his home, phone number, the fact that everything was in his wife's name, etc. cost $40 or so.

  • by digitaldc (879047) * on Friday October 15, 2010 @09:19AM (#33907746)
    For our privacy rights as individuals, it should ALWAYS be opt-IN for this, not opt-OUT!
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 15, 2010 @09:34AM (#33907904)
      The Direct Marketing Association in the U.S. has a lot more money than you do. They won't permit opt-in.
    • by houghi (78078)

      I agree. Just a reminder to say that robots.txt is a form of opt-out.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by panda (10044)

        Except that robots.txt is not enforceable in any way. Spiders can ignore your robots.txt, and I've even seen some that actually spider what's in robots.txt looking for the "juicy" stuff.

        One solution that an associate came up with was to put a url in the robots.txt that could not be reached from the normal site. The URL, when accessed, would run a program that instantly blocked the client IP address in the server's firewall. After implementing this, he very quickly accumulated thousands of entries in the fir

    • by gutnor (872759)
      Making everything OPT-In is not very realistic. Nobody would every risk to create a service like Google Street Map which is in a grey area.

      What would be better is that all companies scrapping data from public places should register in a single central location where a User can see the information collected about him - for free - and then check/authorize what can be done with that info.

  • by Megaweapon (25185) on Friday October 15, 2010 @09:20AM (#33907756) Homepage

    If "Bob Smith" is a registered sex offender in a large urban area, another Bob Smith in the same area might have some difficulty getting hired for a job. Perhaps the scrapers might see some revenue in selling "whitelist" services.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Chrisq (894406)

      If "Bob Smith" is a registered sex offender in a large urban area, another Bob Smith in the same area might have some difficulty getting hired for a job. Perhaps the scrapers might see some revenue in selling "whitelist" services.

      Don't even go there. How long before someone has the bright idea of creating suspect names just to be able to charge for an opt out.

    • by Culture20 (968837) on Friday October 15, 2010 @09:43AM (#33908012)

      If "Bob Smith" is a registered sex offender in a large urban area, another Bob Smith in the same area might have some difficulty getting hired for a job. Perhaps the scrapers might see some revenue in selling "whitelist" services.

      You have that backwards. Hope you don't have an uncommon name. Almost no one has a unique name, but people tend to think any uncommon name is unique. Even worse, locally uncommon names that are common elsewhere.

    • He has a middle-of-the-road name - not exactly common, but not wildly inventive.

      Just so happens that a man convicted of indecent assault against a minor has the same name and comes from the same county.

      The worst thing to happen (so far) was that my friend's FB account was deleted, and he had to create a new one and fire a "WTF?" email at FB. It was all rather amusing and it didn't cause any lasting damage, but I haven't had the heart to take him to one side and say, "Dude, seriously, you were *lucky* that

      • by echucker (570962)
        A co-worker of mine got pulled out of line at the airport. It turned out that his not too common, but not unique, name was similar to one on the do-not-fly list. Once the description and age of the named individual was checked, it was obvious they were not the same person.
  • Lets hope they're Chilean - they might get stuck in a shaft between our Blog and our Facebook.

  • by Hatta (162192) on Friday October 15, 2010 @09:28AM (#33907814) Journal

    Banks, insurance companies, etc may end up using this kind of data to inform their risk management decisions. Eventually, that may mean that if they don't have this kind of data, you are risky by default. Look at what's happened with the credit bureaus. Technically they are opt out. But if you actually opt out, you put yourself at such a tremendous disadvantage that you can't really do it. You are forced to let these people have all sorts of detailed personal information, if you just want to live your life.

    Perhaps we need some sort of data mining fifth amendment, where refusing to provide information cannot be used against you. But that's wishful thinking. In reality, people who just want to be left alone are probably going to be better off not opting out, as that would draw more attention than just blending into the crowd.

    • The vast majority of this info is coming from the credit reporting agencies to begin with. Don't want to be in these databases? Don't get a credit history.. your entire life. Its not just the private sector thats selling you out, cash strapped governments do too (particularly motor vehicle departments).
  • go walk on a beach so the directional microphones can't pick up what you say through the surf noise

    but if you want it to be public, post it on the internet

    because as the other story from yesterday about the government spying on facebook shows: you are in the absurd scenario of trusting the GOVERNMENT to make rules, and you are trusting the GOVERNMENT to enforce rules, about what? about what you put in wide open view on a public internet. to me, that expectation of yours is insane

    why are you trusting the government to do this? even if they had the intent and the enforcement capacity to do so, you honestly think they will do a capable job? with what? the corporate subcontractors with the financial involvement with the corporations who are after your data? pffft

    and say the government fails to protect your data. ok, they sue and prosecute the offending corporations. but your info is already in the database. the database that is now mirrored 50 times by 25 different entities! once it gets on the internet, IT NEVER DIES. so please, get real: if you don't want it to get in a database, DON'T PUT IT ON THE FREAKING INTERNET

    it is that simple. all other point of views are, frankly, a form of absurdity in which

    1. you distrust corporations and governments with your private info,
    2. so you put that private info on a public internet,
    3. trusting corporations and governments to keep that info safe from
    4. the same corporations and governments!

    (smacks forehead)

    i have a hen house. to protect that hen house from the wolf in the woods, i will hire the wolf in the woods to guard the hen house. wtf?!

    • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Friday October 15, 2010 @09:35AM (#33907912)

      if you don't want it to get in a database, DON'T PUT IT ON THE FREAKING INTERNET

      If only it were that simple. How do you stop other people from posting it on some website somewhere, potentially without your knowledge? What about all those people who use Facebook and think that their privacy settings are equivalent to not posting information online, or that what the post on Facebook is only accessible to people they "friend?" Just saying, "Well you posted it online so it is your own fault," is not really an answer to the question.

      (For the record, I do not use any social networking websites, I do not blog, and so forth. I still have to deal with everyone around me who does, though.)

      • you are trusting facebook to actually keep it private

        in what world do you live in which you have determined that facebook is worthy of that trust?

        • Read my post again, sir. I do not use Facebook or any similar website. There are plenty of people who do, though, and the overwhelming majority of them are not very knowledgeable about how the web or the Internet work, nor do they have a good enough grasp of what Facebook's privacy settings really mean.

          Seriously, try talking to some humanities majors and you'll see what I mean (yes, this is a broad generalization; I am sure that there are humanities majors out there who are well informed when it comes
          • i read your post in its entirety. i was attacking the idea that trust is even possible in the situation. and now i see we are actually in agreement, because you also think such trust is nonexistent. your point simply seems to be a lot of fools meanwhile still trust where there is none. therefore, we have no disagreement, because that is my point too. cheers

            • Well I think his original point is that while you, or I, or he may not be willing to trust a company like Facebook, there are others that do. And while you, or I, or he would assume ourselves safe because we don't trust Facebook, we are not because those that do trust Facebook may post stuff about us. For instance, I am currently renting a condo that is part of an HOA. My fellow HOA members (especially the older ladies) have a very bad habit of gossiping about their neighbors and sticking their noses into o
    • by hedwards (940851) on Friday October 15, 2010 @09:42AM (#33908000)
      It's not that simple. The problem is that I can control what I put on the internet, but I have no control over what others put on the net. I learned that the hard way when TD Ameritrade lost my contact information to spammers.
      • and since these entities simply cannot be trusted with keeping info safe, i think we are rapidly entering an age in which privacy simply doesn't exist

        not out of any malevolence or malfeasance, but as a simple direct logical corollary to the growth of the internet and the unintended consequences of how things actually play out in the real world, regardless of anyone's intent

        anything that gets in contact with the internet: it never dies

    • go walk on a beach so the directional microphones can't pick up what you say through the surf noise

      Surf noise does not defeat high gain directional microphones. What is worse for these is a good unsteady breeze. From the time the sound us uttered to the time it is picked up, the mass of air containing the sound has moved shifting the apparent arrival direction. With a shifting breeze, this makes tracking a sound source very difficult.

      Ask any film maker that has had to record in a breeze. A still sound stage is much easier to record with surf sound added later.

      • yeah but then they can use those laser devices that translate the vibrations in the window glass back into speech at long distances

        • When walking the beach, most of the time there are no window panes close enough to pick up vibrations of my speech.

  • I saw no connection between my real identity and any of my online identities.

    In fact, it barely had any information on my online identies, anyway. The only information it had on my real identity was stuff I already knew was out there, mainly job related stuff like LinkedIn.

    • by kent_eh (543303)
      Indeed. I just googled my name (real name) and the real me only shows up once in the first 3 pages of results, among at least a dozen other people who share my name.

      The username I use here (and in variant spellings in many other places) didn't appear associated with my real name anywhere.

      My wife is even more invisible. Searching her real name did not reveal her at all. Only a bunch of other people with the same name.

      It looks like being a bit judicious about what we put out there is still working.
  • Copying music wasn't much of an issue until it became not only trivial to do but also trivial to share.

    Once upon a time a third party would have had real work to do to find out how much I pay in property taxes, for example.

    Yeah, it's public information, but it wasn't trivial to get.

    I want accessibility of information about me to help me and make my life easier.

    I don't want easy access to _my_ information to make it easy for other people to make my life more difficult.

  • Dont opt out (Score:5, Insightful)

    by digitallife (805599) on Friday October 15, 2010 @10:10AM (#33908356)

    I have no doubt that 'opting out' causes the problem to get dramatically worse, as the companies use the additional details (you have to fax your drivers licens to the first one on the list) to increase the value of your portfolio and sell it off to a bunch of other databases while they are 'removing' you from their own. They probably don't even bother removing you from theirs, because honestly what consequences are they going to suffer?

  • by Delusion_ (56114) on Friday October 15, 2010 @10:10AM (#33908368) Homepage

    "They are not looking for passwords and such; scrapers are looking at blogs and forums searching for material relevant to their corporate clients."

    Web scraping for passwords? Why would anyone have thought this in the first place? It's a bad comparison. If your passwords are already on a website to be scraped, your problem isn't data scrapers.

  • Whew... (Score:3, Informative)

    by hrimhari (1241292) on Friday October 15, 2010 @10:11AM (#33908376) Journal

    If the only thing I have to fear about is PeekYou, then I'm utterly anonymous. [peekyou.com]

  • I have no doubt... (Score:2, Informative)

    by sudden.zero (981475)
    that this is a real problem as I have personally experienced problems with data scrapers, scraping my data. However, this tool they are talking about (PeekYou) couldn't find a stripe in a pack of fruit stripe gum. I looked up several of my handles and several of my friends handles and was not able to find anyone. Then I looked up real names and was still unsuccessful. So, don't worry about (PeekYou) worry about people doing actual data-scraping the old fashioned way.
  • Post some chaff (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bennetts2 (3638)

    Surely the way round this is for those that feel strongly about thier privacy to post meaningless drivel that has no relationship to themselves or anyone else at regular intervals. The datascrapers will be unable to tell the difference between truth and reality and their business model will fail.
    There's a use for Twitter after all!

  • by Tumbleweed (3706) * on Friday October 15, 2010 @10:29AM (#33908600)

    There's only two ways to fight this - one is to push for data privacy laws, and the other is to pollute the data stream. When you're asked for a name, address, phone number or birthdate on a web site or form, lie. Just flat out lie. If you live on a town that borders another state (I'm originally from Kansas City, MO), say on forms you live on the other side of the border. Mixing states REALLY confuses data aggregators. The more information you get into the data stream that is fucked up, the harder it is to put it back together in an accurate way.

    Make throwaway email addresses at gmail or wherever on a regular basis to use for all this, btw. And keep using DIFFERENT fake data, too, otherwise it will still be a consistent identity of sorts, and will probably eventually be tracked back to you. And don't ever put any real data in Facebook, etc., or put a link between your Facebook account and anything else. Social networking sites are by far the biggest leakers of personal data.

    I have a mailbox at a local UPS store where I have everything sent.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Krau Ming (1620473)
      i recently had the opportunity to fill out a 100 page consumer trends survey for a reward of $30. there was something like 1000 questions all on a scale of 1 (i don't use these products) to 10 (i always use these products), and they ask for your personal description and address presumably to help the product companies determine how to improve/personalize their advertisement barrage or improve availability of their products. i ended up circling random numbers the entire survey, made up a random description
  • *types in his user name*
    "What that's not me!"
    "... I wonder if it recognises my real name"
    *types in real name*
    *system now has the information it needs to link the user name to real name*
    • by PPH (736903)
      User name> PPH {ENTER}
      Unkown User id
      User name> George Clooney {ENTER}
      Welcome George

      Problem solved.

  • After spending millions on data miners, surveys, demographic analysis, consumer panels, and consultants we've come to the conclusion that the target market for beer is young men.

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