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Your Privacy Is a Sci-Fi Fantasy 195

Posted by Soulskill
from the when-education-battles-apathy dept.
snydeq writes "Deep End's Paul Venezia discusses the 'sci-fi fantasy' that is privacy in the digital era. 'The assault on personal privacy has ramped up significantly in the past few years. From warrantless GPS tracking to ISP packet inspection, it seems that everyone wants to get in on the booming business of clandestine snooping — even blatant prying, if you consider reports of employers demanding Facebook passwords prior to making hiring decisions,' Venezia writes. 'What happened? Did the rules change? What is it about digital information that's convinced some people this is OK? Maybe the right to privacy we were told so much about has simply become old-fashioned, a barrier to progress.'"
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Your Privacy Is a Sci-Fi Fantasy

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  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Monday March 26, 2012 @06:12PM (#39479119)
    The article actually reaches a conclusion that is far different from what the intro would imply.
  • The problem is... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by houstonbofh (602064) on Monday March 26, 2012 @06:13PM (#39479141)
    The problem is that far to many people look about as far ahead as a goldfish. "Sure I will give you access to all my facebook data for a cheap beer..." And that makes it had for the rest of us with a clue.
    • by JoeMerchant (803320) on Monday March 26, 2012 @06:18PM (#39479197) Homepage

      The problem is that far to many people look about as far ahead as a goldfish. "Sure I will give you access to all my facebook data for a cheap beer..." And that makes it had for the rest of us with a clue.

      Nothing hard there, they can have access to my Facebook data (I haven't logged in in over a year, and my 5 friends are more random than telling), I get a free beer and they get.... less than they expected, from me.

      Idiots have been bragging about their crimes forever, most mob busts were based on (unintentional) confessions.

    • by cpu6502 (1960974)

      Most of my facebook User info is fake. Wrong birthday. Wrong location. Wrong employment. Only my name and schools are correct (so friends can find me).

      There are certain suspicious people (Alexjones fans) who have accused me of being a fake person, a government or corporate spy, and so on. I can see why they think that since most of my data says things like, "Worked at Hari Seldon's Foundation" and similar nonsense. And yet these Alexjones people should know better than anyone..... putting your real

    • by erroneus (253617) on Monday March 26, 2012 @06:37PM (#39479371) Homepage

      No. There will ALWAYS be pretty stupid people. ALWAYS. This is why being a conman is illegal for a wide variety of reasons. Taking advantage of stupid people is the problem and it is THE FEW who take advantage of the man. It is unreasonable to blame the masses for the deeds of the few.

      The problem is, in fact, the few. This is true because it is more convenient and it is true because when the flaw is a fact of human nature, the best course of action is to compensate for it rather than to "wish really hard" that human nature will change or that somehow a darwinistic evolution will occur across humanity and people will magically get smarter.

      • Re:The problem is... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by lgw (121541) on Monday March 26, 2012 @09:27PM (#39480607) Journal

        This is why being a conman is illegal for a wide variety of reasons. Taking advantage of stupid people is the problem and it is THE FEW who take advantage of the man.

        Most modern cons (as opposed to simple fraud) work better against average-to-smart people. Stupid people tend to follow simple rules (like don't give money to strangers just because they say stuff). But a smart person can be tricked by giving him the idea that he's outsmarting some third party, which is why there are a lot of cons of the "let's you and I put one over on Bob" variety.

        • by Macgrrl (762836)

          As the multitude of shows based around grifters like to say - you can't con an honest man. As a general rule, most cons only seem to work against people who would be prepared to take an unfair advantage over others.

    • Sure I will give you access to all my facebook data for a cheap beer...

      Why are you assuming that my facebook data is not worth a cheap beer, to me? A transaction in which I gain something of value to me, in return for something of value to the other person, which I value less than the goods I receive is the fundamental bedrock of economics.

      • by martin-boundary (547041) on Monday March 26, 2012 @07:19PM (#39479723)

        A transaction in which I gain something of value to me, in return for something of value to the other person, which I value less than the goods I receive is the fundamental bedrock of economics.

        Not quite. There are some things which aren't meant for you to be traded, even if you'd really like that beer. You can't sell your kids for a beer, for example. Even though they're your kids, and you should be able to do with them what you like in general, it's not in society's interest to let you do that. I like to think that letting you sell your privacy for a free beer is not in society's interest either.

      • A transaction in which I gain something of value to me, in return for something of value to the other person, which I value less than the goods I receive is the fundamental bedrock of economics.

        This is not the bedrock of economics, it is the bedrock of societal decline. Trade is an exchange where both parties benefit equally. What you describe is not trade, it is hucksterism. Healthy economics is based on TRADE.

    • by Caerdwyn (829058)

      Or, to paraphrase in a manner that applies to everything from politics to "light" beer:

      Everybody gets what the majority deserves.

    • by bryan1945 (301828)

      I randomly disable and enable my FB account. Drives people nuts. And if someone wants a password for a deactivated account, more power to them. I'd like to see them try and force me to open an account. "We won't hire you unless you have a FB account." Yeah, nothing illegal there, bucko.

  • If I post something to an online site and I allow them to save cookies, then it's my fault if they find out demographic information on me. That I can handle. If I subscribe to a free email account and they mine that information for demographic information, I guess I'm okay with that. It's free. If either of those companies sell that information to the government to keep better tabs on me, it's my fault for using free online services. If they tap my phones or spy in my residence, that is a breach of priva
    • What makes you think the services you pay for aren't collecting and selling your info too?

    • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Monday March 26, 2012 @06:23PM (#39479237)
      The problem with this argument is that many people who use these technologies do not understand how they work, and may not realize what they are exposing.

      Is that their own problem? I suppose. One way to look at it is "evolution in action"... the unaware will be preyed upon. But I think there is a place in society for protecting the innocent from active predators, which are what these companies really are.

      I am not an advocate of laws that are intended to protect us from ourselves. But to protect people from others who actively seek to intrude and invade? Sure, no problem.
    • by cpu6502 (1960974)

      Is there such a thing as paid web email?

      • Yes, and most of them are designed for the privacy conscious person such as Swiss Mail.
        • by cpu6502 (1960974)

          Oh right. Or spamcop.net. I used to visit them all the time but haven't lately. Maybe it's time to open an account.

        • by tenco (773732)

          I never understood why people pay for e-mail from a random company instead of using free alternatives. Let alone, how these can be designed to guarantee privacy with anything more of an insurance than pure lip service. Unencrypted e-mail is like postcards anyways, so why bother.

    • If you use a free fitting room in a clothes store, and they take photos and video from hidden cameras while you change, it's ok right, cause it's free and you expect that.

      If you leave your car in a free parking zone, and there's a guy there hiding a tracking device on the more expensive cars, that's ok right cause it's free and you expect that.

      If you let your kids go to the local playground and there's a guy there asking them questions about where they live, and when you go to work, that's ok right caus

      • by rtb61 (674572) on Monday March 26, 2012 @07:52PM (#39479965) Homepage

        If you pay for it but it's in the contract are they 'free' to monitor your every internet reaction. See the way you react to adds, which generate a positive reaction and which do not. Conduct experiments trialling different styles of adds to see which more effectively manipulate your choices. Test to see if targeting influential people in your life can get them to motivate your decisions. See which lies are the most effective in tricky you about the veracity of adds. See if exposure to actions on the web can influence your choices. See if distortions about your actions on the web can influence your choice. Conduct continual experiments and trials whilst you are connected to the internet upon an automated basis. Target you whole family in a similar fashion especially minors. Target you with automated forum responses to question and challenge your beliefs. Target you social connections with automated responses designed to manipulate your choices. Use your image and voice in product recommendations for free. Use all content you have generated for free. Create man in the middle distortions in your social contacts.

        Are you 'free' to harangue your local representatives to enact legislation to ban all that activity. The legislate the only personal data that companies are allowed to keep is what is required for account keeping purposes. That when this data is no longer required for account keeping purposes it is destroyed. That companies are permanently banned from collating and data mining personal data. That 100% truth is required in all advertising regardless of delivery method and that all false product associations are banned.

  • by JoeMerchant (803320) on Monday March 26, 2012 @06:15PM (#39479167) Homepage

    Wiretapping laws came about because wiretapping was seen as an invasion of privacy, you were in effect joining a real-time conversation that would not normally be recorded.

    All digital communication is inherently recorded, so in some twisted sense it's more like dumpster diving and less like wiretapping to snoop in e-mail.

    Similarly for GPS tracking, that's just like old-school tailing a car, but cheaper and more clandestine - what's not to like?

    The rules need to be rewritten, give it 30 or 40 years and it should settle down, it's all still very new - judicial time runs much slower than internet time.

    • by Chris Burke (6130) on Monday March 26, 2012 @06:20PM (#39479213) Homepage

      All digital communication is inherently recorded, so in some twisted sense it's more like dumpster diving and less like wiretapping to snoop in e-mail.

      No, it's more like your mail carrier reading your snail-mail.

      Which is also an illegal invasion of privacy.

      The rules don't need to be re-written. The old ones work just fine as long as we don't throw out all reason as soon as "on a computer" is added.

      • by JoeMerchant (803320) on Monday March 26, 2012 @06:36PM (#39479361) Homepage

        All digital communication is inherently recorded, so in some twisted sense it's more like dumpster diving and less like wiretapping to snoop in e-mail.

        No, it's more like your mail carrier reading your snail-mail.

        Which is also an illegal invasion of privacy.

        The rules don't need to be re-written. The old ones work just fine as long as we don't throw out all reason as soon as "on a computer" is added.

        When I started using e-mail (early 1990s), I and everyone I e-mailed with understood that e-mail is not a sealed letter, it is a post card, if you want a sealed letter, you need to use crypto - even ROT-13 is some measure of privacy. It seemed reasonable enough, the BBSs I used (and ran) in the 1980s were open like that and you could pretty much assume that the sysop knew everything you typed, including your password.

        Even in the mid 1990s, ISP e-mail was handled on systems that pretty much resembled BBSs, my first dialup ISP was a couple of servers in some guy's garage. It rapidly grew into mass virtual machines in clusters on server farms, but the lack of privacy implications remain - if somebody wants to look, it's all too easy to do.

        • by Chris Burke (6130)

          When I started using e-mail (early 1990s), I and everyone I e-mailed with understood that e-mail is not a sealed letter, it is a post card,

          Not exactly. It's more like a letter with a very thin envelope. It takes a minimal amount of effort to read, but it can't just land in front of you so you read it on accident. A mail server admin still has to intentionally read the email.

          You have a legal expectation of privacy for a letter. This is separate from how easily your privacy could be illegally violated.

          • When I started using e-mail (early 1990s), I and everyone I e-mailed with understood that e-mail is not a sealed letter, it is a post card,

            Not exactly. It's more like a letter with a very thin envelope. It takes a minimal amount of effort to read, but it can't just land in front of you so you read it on accident. A mail server admin still has to intentionally read the email.

            You have a legal expectation of privacy for a letter. This is separate from how easily your privacy could be illegally violated.

            The BBS system I ran in 1985 echoed every single character typed by the user to the server screen, passwords and all. Most BBS software was like that at the time. Modern e-mail moves by in such torrential floods that you might expect some privacy from the sheer volume of other mail moving along with yours, but at any number of points along the way, the stream of characters that is your e-mail can be displayed "for diagnostic purposes" by the simplest of equipment or software.

            If you want a thin envelope, u

        • Even if your emails are sealed from casual man-in-the-middle attacks during transit, companies still snoop on them once they're delivered (eg Google with Gmail or Yahoo etc). The privacy issues at this point have blown up to gigantic proportions, and are *much* worse than the postcard analogy.

          For example, *I* don't have a Gmail account or any direct service agreement with Google, but if I send an email to any one person with a Gmail address (and who doesn't know somebody like that?), then *my* privacy is

      • The rules don't need to be re-written. The old ones work just fine as long as we don't throw out all reason as soon as "on a computer" is added.

        The thing is, the old ones don't work just fine. If you pause to consider why privacy matters, the implications of actions that might have been seen as acceptable or a minor social faux pas twenty years ago could be profound today, and it is the implications that we really care about, not the actions themselves.

        For example, consider Google's Street View project. When the privacy debate around their data collection flared up, some people defended them on the grounds that the cars were only driving down the s

        • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Monday March 26, 2012 @06:57PM (#39479555)
          The problem with your argument is that you are making the classic mistake of thinking that ANY of these things are new issues. They are not. Not even close.

          "Anything seen is seen by one private individual, not a vasty corporation with potentially a global audience.
          Even if we accept as reasonable an individual taking a photograph in a public place that potentially diminishes someone else's privacy, perhaps because the latter person wasn't the subject of the photo and appeared in the background only coincidentally, such photos are still typically only for private, personal use, not being collected by a commercial entity that exists only to exploit anything it can for profit."

          And how is this different from take a public picture of somebody, then putting it on the cover of a national magazine? See, we already had rules about that, and they cover situations like this just fine.

          Similar things can be said about the rest of this. There really isn't anything new here, and if you think there is, then you don't know your history very well. Many of the very same copyright issues that are being slammed around right now, for example, were hashed out in public and in court -- some real knock-down, dragouts as they say -- well over 100 years ago. People keep saying that things are different now, but if they read the actual court decisions from back then, they just might change their minds.

          • The problem with your argument is that you are making the classic mistake of thinking that ANY of these things are new issues.

            I would argue exactly the opposite: the changes enabled by modern technology mean we have not just a quantitative but a qualitative difference in the impact of small but no-longer-isolated observations. This does raise new fundamentally questions about what practical actions are consistent with any given moral position on privacy.

            And how is this different from take a public picture of somebody, then putting it on the cover of a national magazine? See, we already had rules about that, and they cover situations like this just fine.

            For one thing, not everywhere has the same rules about that. Please don't project your local legal system onto the rest of the world. Of all things, privacy is surely one of the mo

            • But you have already made that argument, or close enough. Repeating it does not make it more valid.

              "This does raise new fundamentally questions about what practical actions are consistent with any given moral position on privacy."

              I disagree completely. What "fundamentally new questions"? If you would be more specific, I could probably show you that those questions really aren't new, at all.

              "For one thing, not everywhere has the same rules about that. Please don't project your local legal system onto the rest of the world. Of all things, privacy is surely one of the most variable between jurisdictions in terms of legal protections."

              Okay, I apologize for assuming you were talking about the United States. But if that's a problem, then you are guilty of the same thing: talking about issues that only exist in your part of the world, wherever that is.

              "For another thing, I think there is again a qualitative difference between appearing on a magazine cover, which is a relatively rare event and is by its nature a very public observation usually made by well-established professional media organisations, and the kind of back office data-mining operations that let anonymous observers look up all kinds of information about all kinds of subjects without the subjects even knowing."

              Whatever you might think about it, my point was that (here in the US anyway), there need be no new LEGAL issues raised. They both involve pictures taken in public of (I was presuming) everyday people, and displaying them to audiences of millions. Where is there any kind of legal difference between them? Both rest on a desire (or not) for privacy. I fail to see how showing a picture to millions of people on the internet is very different from showing a picture to millions of people on a magazine cover or on TV. And yes, we have laws to cover that. I really don't see how you think this is somehow "new". There have been not just still cameras but video cameras in public settings now for well over 100 years. You honestly think that issues of this kind haven't come up in the courts before???

              "Perhaps, but at least I understand that copyright and privacy have absolutely nothing to do with each other, aside from both being in conflict with absolute freedom of expression. It is strange that someone so keen to appeal to century-old court decisions apparently does not..."

              I only used copyright as an example of a similar issue. I was not equating copyright with privacy, although I suppose I can see how you might have thought that was what I meant. But no; it was only intended as another -- different -- example of how a great many people mistakenly think that modern fights over issues are somehow "new". On the contrary, I repeat: most of these issues have been hashed out not just once, but many times, in the courts over the past century or two. It would benefit a lot of people to pick up some history books from time to time. With the internet now here and well established, it is easier now then ever before to look things up.

              • Please don't get hung up on the specific example I gave. It was only an example of a more general point: because we now have much easier abilities to store, search and corrolate large numbers of small facts, and to make the results widely and instantly available with little cost, allowing the collection of any small fact about an individual may contribute to a much more severe loss of privacy than it ever could before those technologies existed.

                Street View is just one case, in that for example if I know you

                • "Please don't get hung up on the specific example I gave. It was only an example of a more general point: because we now have much easier abilities to store, search and corrolate large numbers of small facts, and to make the results widely and instantly available with little cost, allowing the collection of any small fact about an individual may contribute to a much more severe loss of privacy than it ever could before those technologies existed.

                  Street View is just one case, in that for example if I know your address there is now a good chance I can quickly and anonymously find out your vehicle and registration details, because that outdoor photography has been systematically collected, is now searchable on-line, and is now available to the entire world."

                  Since you put it THAT way, I grant you that this specific example might represent something different. It may be true that mass access to what was commonly thought of as "public" information -- when aggregated -- could endanger privacy in ways that were not before. I can see that.

                  "On the other hand, someone standing there with a video recording device requires only that in handling your card you momentarily expose both sides of it to reveal the numbers required to make an on-line payment. Someone who could follow you around with a recording device could probably collect many other relevant details for security checks based on address and the like as well."

                  So what? This brings up the point I made before: the fact that it is theoretically possible does not make it okay or condoned by society. This is a perfect example. In my state, just such activity falls under "surveillance" laws an

            • Slip of the keyboard in the first part caused a formatting error. That part should have read:

              "I would argue exactly the opposite: the changes enabled by modern technology mean we have not just a quantitative but a qualitative difference in the impact of small but no-longer-isolated observations."

              But you have already made that argument, or close enough. Repeating it does not make it more valid.

    • "All digital communication is inherently recorded, so in some twisted sense it's more like dumpster diving and less like wiretapping to snoop in e-mail."

      Not at all. First, it isn't "inherently recorded", any more than your snail mail is "inherently copied" when it is put in a bin at the post office. It is quite possible to relay things like email, and even put them in temporary storage, waiting for the email client to pick them up, without "recording" them in any other sense. When my email client gets my mail, it is deleted from anywhere else.

      Now, having said that, you are your own worst enemy if you use the IMAP email protocol, rather than the older POP

      • by tqk (413719)

        To sum it up: there is no real sense in which electronic communications are "inherently recorded" by any middleman, at all, any more than a telephone conversation, unless you count temporary storage, which should be set up as just that... temporary, and wiped when a file is deleted.

        You haven't been reading the news? The NSA is already setting up a datacentre to record all of that traffic. Add to that, they don't believe they have "intercepted" that data unless and until an NSA drone actually accesses that data. They're lobbying Congress for approval, last I heard.

        • There is nothing "inherent" about the NSA. It could disappear tomorrow. And frankly I think we would all be better off if it did.
      • "All digital communication is inherently recorded, so in some twisted sense it's more like dumpster diving and less like wiretapping to snoop in e-mail."

        Not at all. First, it isn't "inherently recorded", any more than your snail mail is "inherently copied" when it is put in a bin at the post office.

        Maybe not necessary, but as it has always been implemented, SMTP, IMAP, POP and otherwise, it is stored on each server while they wait to copy it to the next server, and it is stored for a long time on the receiving server waiting for the final (usually human) recipient to acknowledge receipt and request deletion - I have always set my clients to automatically delete received messages after 15 days, during which time, I assume that my ISP is backing the, almost always unencrypted, e-mail up on their disaste

        • "Maybe not necessary, but as it has always been implemented, SMTP, IMAP, POP and otherwise, it is stored on each server while they wait to copy it to the next server, and it is stored for a long time on the receiving server waiting for the final (usually human) recipient to acknowledge receipt and request deletion - I have always set my clients to automatically delete received messages after 15 days, during which time, I assume that my ISP is backing the, almost always unencrypted, e-mail up on their disaster recovery system."

          But this is transient storage, just as the mail bin is, in my example. There is nothing about recording copies that is "inherent" in this technology. The kind of recording you are talking about requires a copy, such as in a database somewhere. None of the technologies we are talking about require copies in order to operate.

          "... during which time, I assume that my ISP is backing the, almost always unencrypted, e-mail up on their disaster recovery system."

          Depends on your ISP, but probably not. Besides, if you are using an email account that is given to you by your ISP, you're kind of asking for trouble, aren't you?

          "Know anybody who uses digital signatures or PGP in regular e-mail conversations? I know exactly one, a geek celebrity who presumably doesn't want people making up quotes attributed to him."

          That's a straw-man argume

        • by Ash-Fox (726320)

          Know anybody who uses digital signatures or PGP in regular e-mail conversations? I know exactly one, a geek celebrity who presumably doesn't want people making up quotes attributed to him.

          I use domain keys and SPF to help ensure authenticity on my mail servers. I believe the major mail providers also use these technologies. Mail technologies have somewhat evolved over the years.

      • by Ash-Fox (726320)

        Now, having said that, you are your own worst enemy if you use the IMAP email protocol, rather than the older POP3, because IMAP inherently does put your email in control of the server

        I own my server. If you want control over your data, own your end points. POP3 isn't going to stop your information from being stored - see gmail comment below.

        and by default keeps copies of the emails on the server, even those that are "deleted".

        Only Outlook does that. Thunderbird, Zimbra, kmail, siphed-claws etc. do not.

        You

    • by green1 (322787)

      This is yet again a case of lawmakers completely forgetting old rules just because something happens in a new medium.

      Would you get away with having someone stand 1 foot away from a private conversation? then why do you think you should get away with listening in on their phone line? what's the difference?

      Can you get away with opening people's physical mail? what makes email any different? (and every other online service is either like a bulletin board everyone can read, which is fair game to all, or like pr

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      The rules need to be rewritten, give it 30 or 40 years and it should settle down, it's all still very new - judicial time runs much slower than internet time.

      As a person born and grown under the communist regimes in East Europe, I cannot stop but wonder just how will it settle down in 30-40 years time... it's not like it cannot evolve in the unpleasant direction much faster than 30 years (except USSR, the rest of the countries in Eastern Europe had the regime imposed to them in a matter of 10-12 years. Imagine if US of A would start muscling the world in this direction... for the sake of the children, against terrorists and to protect their entertainment industr

      • it's not like it cannot evolve in the unpleasant direction much faster than 30 years

        True, hopefully the US has enough checks and balances to reverse the unpleasant direction (which I feel we have been moving slowly in for 30 years now) before it gets too bad.

        • by c0lo (1497653)

          it's not like it cannot evolve in the unpleasant direction much faster than 30 years

          True, hopefully the US has enough checks and balances to reverse the unpleasant direction (which I feel we have been moving slowly in for 30 years now) before it gets too bad.

          This [slashdot.org] doesn't seem in any way as a step (no matter how small or slow) in the right direction.

    • by epyT-R (613989)

      no they don't.. the old ones just need to be applied, the 'on the internet' suffix does not justify a rewrite.

  • In an effort to find the needle, we're burning down the haystack.

    I might add that burning down a haystack to find a needle in it not only destroys the hay, but makes the needle useless..

    • In an effort to find the needle, we're burning down the haystack.

      I might add that burning down a haystack to find a needle in it not only destroys the hay, but makes the needle useless..

      Useless, or harmless? There are those who would see the disempowered needle as a victory (they don't care about hay, anyway.)

  • It's just that in the past that information was in different locations, like the phone book (name, address, phone) or state government (birthdate, annual income), or federal government (SS number, lifetime income). Companies have always sought to find information on us, from Arbitron measuring how many people listened local stations, to Nielsen adding PeopleMeters to boxes. Now Google and Facebook are doing the same, but more directly through the net.

    • Companies have always sought to find information on us,

      I disagree. This is pervasive only due to advertising. If you put aside the requirements of advertising, you'll find that companies have very little need for information about their customers, basically they just need enough to make a transaction work, an address only if something must be sent or delivered, and credit card data if it's not going to be a cash transaction.

      So the evil ultimately resides in the needs of advertising, and the solution lie

      • Companies have always sought to find information on us,

        I disagree. This is pervasive only due to advertising. If you put aside the requirements of advertising, you'll find that companies have very little need for information about their customers, basically they just need enough to make a transaction work, an address only if something must be sent or delivered, and credit card data if it's not going to be a cash transaction.

        So the evil ultimately resides in the needs of advertising, and the solution lies in making companies accountable for their activities.

        Companies have always sought to find information on us,

        I disagree. This is pervasive only due to advertising. If you put aside the requirements of advertising, you'll find that companies have very little need for information about their customers, basically they just need enough to make a transaction work, an address only if something must be sent or delivered, and credit card data if it's not going to be a cash transaction.

        So the evil ultimately resides in the needs of advertising, and the solution lies in making companies accountable for their activities.

        I worked for a company that made a very technically complex product, it cost, all told, $600 to make, and sold for $15K, yet, the company barely broke even. Why? Because it cost $14,400 per device to successfully market and sell one - they sold tens of thousands per year, shipped a FedEx truck full of promotional materials out every single day, and had hundreds of sales reps beating the bushes to find "the next customer."

        For many companies "advertising" and potential customer information are simply, every

      • "This is pervasive only due to advertising."

        Not advertising but marketing. Forget about advertising and companies still will want to know what's the average income of your neighborhood, if there's a majority of any ethnic, if they are young or old, how many children on average, if they have degrees or just basic education, if you have a big car or if you prefer your weekly buy on saturday or friday...

        Advertising is just the most visible side of the marketing iceberg.

      • by w_dragon (1802458)
        Even if cable were advertisement free there would still be value in knowing what people watch. If people don't watch a channel then the company can drop it from a package without losing customers, saving money. Similar with stores, if you regularly buy 3 products from the same aisle they may want to split them up so you browse more of the store. Advertising increases the value of your information, but it is not worthless without it.
  • by erroneus (253617) on Monday March 26, 2012 @06:21PM (#39479223) Homepage

    It simply has to be fought for and lately it seems it will require some very real bloodshed. The government of the U.S. and all of the other major free society governments of the world are hell bent on stripping away privacy in order to defend intellectual property and to assure themselves of better control over the people "they serve." The last time we saw these kinds of problems, there was a revolution in the US. The next time we see it, it may be a global "civil war" against the tyrants of the nations of the world.

    I'm sorry to all the business people out there who believe their right to "grow and proper" outweighs the needs, rights and the very nature of humanity but they don't. You don't have the right to unlimited profits. You don't have the right to sell data you have collected about people to other businesses or governments. You will all find this out before too long "French Revolution" style.

    I just hope we have enough "fathers of the new world democracy" or whatever we end of calling it to write a new constitution guaranteeing everything the US constitution guaranteed and adds to it all of the lessons we have learned since that document was written. Among these should include bits like "There shall be no law which impedes, restricts, hinders or limits the rights of humanity, its arts or its legacy."

    Frankly, I'm getting to the point where I feel we have little else to lose. And when that happens, a special kind of hell will break loose all over the globe.

    • by Twinbee (767046)
      I think 99% of people are FAR more content than what you're portraying. I'm not saying you don't have some partially good points, but at least I would prefer targeted ads than weight-loss or build-your-abs crap. Yeah they might earn a bit more revenue, big deal. Some things you really do gain on the roundabouts and lose on the swings.
      • by erroneus (253617)

        The American revolution started with a tiny minority. And when things started rolling, attention came to what terrible things the British government did which brought more people to support the revolution... it grew and grew and grew. The incident in Tienanmen square called attention to the desires of many, many people in China.

        Global activism calling attention to tyrants and human rights violations is growing all over the globe with common themes. The US government is identifying protestors as terrorist

  • ...with a lack of privacy is that there's a lack of accountability. If an institution gets incorrect data on you, it's not that institution's fault - it's not their data - and even if they fix it it will break again because the bad data is still out there. There's no central authoritative source when there's no privacy, which means that nobody is at fault when mistakes are made, and nobody is responsible for cleaning the mess up.

    There's a whole raft of other problems, but I fail to see how reliable data cou

  • Maybe it's different in other countries but in the U.S. people barely seem to care about personal privacy. Between Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Myspace, and so on, people seem more than willing to put their private lives and information out on the internet. And if you look at the type of news that Americans read most often, it is celebrity gossip, tabloids and paparazzi that stalk famous people and report on their every movement.

    We put our political beliefs on our t-shirts and bumper stickers. Wear our sport

  • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Monday March 26, 2012 @06:35PM (#39479349)

    Dear author:
    Puleeze. Science fiction (scifi) and fantasy fiction are separate genres. Everybody knows this most basic fact! To use the adjective "scifi" to describe the noun "fantasy" is Not correct.
    Signed,
        Comic Book Guy

    • by Tim C (15259)
      Fantasy is just scifi with magic instead of tech. (Different realms instead of different planets, elves, goblins, etc instead of aliens, no space ships, etc)
      • by tenco (773732)

        In your average Star Wars universe, maybe. Have you actually read any hard sf? And Fantasy sports a lot less gender mainstreaming than Science Fiction.

  • My two cents:

    Companies which ask for Facebook login information are wasting money on non-work related information gathering. In other words, the company has too much money and is spending it on a non-recoverable cost center. Potential employees who deny access are saving the company money and should be the preferred hires. When I took a computer ethics class in my bachelor of science degree, I was amazed there were people in the class were willing to play cop and "get him" without any evidence that the susp

  • There were never any laws stopping someone from watching the outside of your house. There never needed to be. Long ago, the only ones who could were your neighbours, and long-distance enemies camping out. Either way there were very easy deterents. But when remotely operating camperas and such appeared, the law said supported my right to see the outside of your house. So I was allowed to aim a camera at your house. That camera later became infrared and could see through walls. But you posted a photogr

  • Or maybe (Score:3, Insightful)

    by koan (80826) on Monday March 26, 2012 @06:48PM (#39479487)

    Maybe the right to privacy we were told so much about has simply become old-fashioned, a barrier to progress.

    Just maybe the generation growing up is more accepting of the intrusions, the same way manners and morals dissolved over the years, compare TV in the 1950's to TV today to see a graphic example of this.

    For the record you can maintain your privacy, just learn to think like this; that everything done on the Internet is like shouting in a restaurant so don't post or discuss things you wouldn't yell in a restaurant.

  • Only slashdot visitors get all worked up about privacy invasions. As far as I can tell, the rest of the world is pretty happy openly letting everyone know of their social, economic, emotional, physical, geographic or mental status. People want to share all this information. We get a kick out of it. Remember that thing about humans - Humans are social animals. Somehow, we want humans to unlearn their biological craving to share information and close themselves in? Good luck!
  • Maybe the right to privacy we were told so much about has simply become old-fashioned, a barrier to progress

    Memo to Mr. Venezia:
    GO TO HELL!

  • Misspelled "barrier to profit."

  • Maybe the right to privacy we were told so much about has simply become old-fashioned, a barrier to progress.

    The "right to privacy" you've been "told so much about" didn't really come into play in the United States until the Supreme Court was looking to overturn states laws banning contraception in Griswold v. Connecticut. Currently, we're looking at a GOP presidential primary where at least one of the major candidates would like to see that overturned outright, to be able to ban contraception specifically and other privacy protections generally.

  • I guess somebody didn't get the memo about GPS searches requiring a warrant.

  • "Maybe the right to privacy we were told so much about has simply become old-fashioned, a barrier to progress.'"

    Knowing that someone would seriously entertain that concept kinda tastes like mental bile.
  • "...Maybe the right to privacy we were told so much about has simply become old-fashioned, a barrier to profits".

    Privatized profits, socialized losses - socialism for the rich and megacorps.

  • by pmontra (738736) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @03:21AM (#39481995) Homepage
    We can progress in many directions. Maybe progress in a direction that destroys everybody's privacy for the profit of a few people is not the right direction to progress to.
  • by cheros (223479) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @07:20AM (#39482901)

    1 - Privacy is a right. Yes, that's right - a Human Right [un.org]. Quite a lot of expensive people sat around a large table for quite some time working this stuff out, and if they didn't think it was important I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be in their list [un.org].

    2 - Laws are made to be followed. Excuses such as "too big to comply", "we're from abroad" or "too costly to comply" (Google Streetview) are not acceptable.

    3 - Law enforcement gets a privilege to break the laws to fight crime. It has to be kept VERY clear, that this is a PRIVILEGE, and absolutely NOT a right.

    Now, was that so hard?

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