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Just How Much Privacy Do We Have? 341

stuffman64 writes: "Popular Science is running an excellent article on just how private our daily lives are. The article chronicles a typical day of a make-believe Graphics Designer from Chicago. Throughout his day, he unwittingly supplies companies with information that can potentially be used against him. And with GPS-enabled cell phones just starting to hit the market, our privacy can only continue to deteriorate from here. A must read."
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Just How Much Privacy Do We Have?

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  • by blair1q ( 305137 ) on Monday June 24, 2002 @11:41PM (#3760913) Journal
    I'm not believing a word Popular Science tells me.

    • don't believe the other guy. They are right here []
      • Moller is full of it. He's been announcing his flying car as Real Soon Now since 1974. I have his 1974 brochure.

        It's embarassing that he hasn't produced a flyable prototype. It's quite possible to build such a thing; the Avrocar [] did it in the 1950s. The thing was aerodynamically unstable. This was expected, and an active stabilization system was provided, but 1950s control technology wasn't up to the job of making an unstable aircraft flyable. Today, that's far less of a problem.

    • I have one more issue of Popular Science left in my subscription and I am not going to renew it.

      Half the magazine are ads, and another quarter of them are half baked product reviews (for example, comparing iMac with top of the line Sony desktop) with appropriate information on where to buy them.

      In the past year, only a handful of articles were worth reading, and this one is definately the best I have seen thus far.

      Maybe I should just use the money to subscribe to /. wait.. I can still get it for free..
  • For Mark, he has other issues:

    9:14 am: Instant messaging
    Mark IMs his girlfriend: "Don't worry about last night. I'll get tested. Love you."

    I'd say privacy should be the least of his concerns.
  • GPS Phone Question (Score:2, Insightful)

    by zook ( 34771 )
    It is my understanding that the federal government is the one responsible for GPS (or other technology aimed at locating the unit) being added to phones, purportedly so better locate them in the case of a 911 call.

    Is there any reason that a phone could not simply fire up the GPS unit when 911 were called? Do any of these GPS-enabled units do this?

    Somehow this feature seems like it would be a major selling point to me.

    • Is there any reason that a phone could not simply fire up the GPS unit when 911 were called?

      The GPS will have to be already running, it takes time to lock on the satellites and get enough data to compute a fix; once it has that info it can track very accurately. The real question is will the sending of that data be limited to just 911 calls. Every indication is that it will not. While it would be very handy to be able to send the data when you want to and let another party receive it (perhaps a person you are trying to meet with or a website you want location specific information from), it seems more likely that the phone company will capture this data against your will and sell it, it would be valuable to a lot of people. It's even been suggest you might start getting targeted instant messaging advertisements when you get close to a store targeting you.

    • GPS doesn't work indoors!

      Or for that matter, anywhere it doesn't have a clear view of the sky. Such as in your pocket.

      • by baka_boy ( 171146 )
        Your pocket actually isn't much of a problem, unless you're wearing pants made out of metal or's the heavy (microwave-blocking) building materials in the city that really cause problems, along with (to a lesser extent) the water in your body.

    • RTFA (Score:3, Informative)

      by unformed ( 225214 )
      One thing it went over was that people did not like the idea of GPS being always enabled on their phones, so what's happening is that phones will only enable GPS when 911 is dialed or the user hits a "I AM HERE" button, or the phone will have an option to disable GPS altogether.

    • > Is there any reason that a phone could not simply fire up the GPS unit when 911 were called? Do any of these GPS-enabled units do this?

      No there is not :) And that's why there already are such "emergency phones". To market something else than the giant mobile phone vendors, here's a link to Benefon Esc's [] product details, including:

      Emergency button: in case of emergency, up to five SOS messages with your location is sent, and a voice connection is opened to a predefined number
  • by io333 ( 574963 ) on Monday June 24, 2002 @11:52PM (#3760946)
    I have a Samsung A400 (SprintPCS). The GPS can be turned off as a menu function. Right now, it's no good for anything, except emergency 911 locating services, and even that currently works only in Rhode Island.

    Personally, I wish the WOULD get the rest of the darn GPS thing working, so that next time I'm lost I can get directions!

    Now when "they" decide that GPS will not be turn off-able, oh well, I guess I'll just turn the whole darn phone off. If I'm feeling *super paranoid* that day, I suppose I'll have to go to the trouble of removing the battery too. It's too d*mn intrusive anyway, even when it *doesn't* know where I am.
    • Get a handheld GPS with a map display. I can know where I am without letting everyone else know. If I need help, I can tell them where I am.
      Many of the pocket size Etrex units have this feature. I have the Magellan Map 330 and love it. It has paid for itself in gas saved several times. It has gotten me out of traffic tie ups. Road blocked by an accident? just cut into a neighborhood, check map for current location and locate alternate route on the spot. It saves time and gas. This alone made mine better than free. No need to re-fold and store the map when done. ;-)
    • "Now when "they" decide that GPS will not be turn off-able, oh well, I guess I'll just turn the whole darn phone off."

      Well, considering that GPS requires line-of-sight to work.. just don't use your phone outside. If you're inside, GPS won't work. Or you can wrap your phone in tin foil.. it'll block GPS, but act as a nice antenna for your cell phone.

      Of course they can still triangulate your position without GPS.. so your best choice is to stay in your basement, with your shotguns.. listening for the FBI.
  • Upon clicking the link to the article, the Popular Science web server will set two cookies, instantly making you trackable on all future visits to that server or any other with which they share data... -m
    • Only if you let the cookies remain! A simple batch file (MS users) or cron job can take care of any new unwanted cookies next time you log on.
      This keeps many sites from being broken. Your cookie history goes away when you log out of the current session. Keep some cookies, like your /. logon.
      • Or, use a browser that lets you selectively accept or block cookies from each's also an interesting way to find out exactly who's trying to track you, and keep random ad banner exchanges, etc., from being able to assign a global id to you.

        To bring this back on topic, let me ask you this: will there be a market in the future for consumer electronics devices (cell phones, PDAs, etc.) that give you the same level of control over how much information you're willing to share?
  • That Eye (Score:2, Funny)

    by jcoy42 ( 412359 )
    on every single page is going to replace the whale in my nightmares..
  • Ya tell me about it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by El_Nofx ( 514455 ) on Monday June 24, 2002 @11:57PM (#3760958)
    In North Dakota where, we had a total of 5 murders last year, they are installing cameras all over, privacy is gone in public. Noone really even put up a fuss either, strange. On a good note we just approved a law preventing all banks from selling any of your information. First in the nation from what I understand, to be approved in a proposition.
  • No need for GPS (Score:4, Informative)

    by tjcoyle ( 539228 ) on Monday June 24, 2002 @11:59PM (#3760964) Homepage

    Who needs to worry about GPS enabled phones?

    A cell phone's signal is received by multiple antennas at distinct locations simultaneously, therefore, it's only a matter of using triangulation to determine a phone's location based upon signal strength.

    Here's a sample of its applications, and if you do a quick search, you'll surely find more: tm []
    • Sprint and Cingular are actually putting GPS recievers IN the phones, while verizon and others are doing the triangulation thing. The triangulation is really only useful in remote areas. Multipath and timing errors severly limit its usefulness. GPS on the other hand only works outside.
  • by Jamie Zawinski ( 775 ) <> on Tuesday June 25, 2002 @12:00AM (#3760966) Homepage
    People who are paranoid about getting GPSes in cellphones must not realize how small most cells are: if your cellphone is turned on, its location can already be determined to within a pretty small area: a quarter mile or less inside cities.
    • Which is a lot when you consider that GPS can narrow it down to what, about six inches? Not all that comforting anymore.
    • by stuffman64 ( 208233 ) <> on Tuesday June 25, 2002 @12:22AM (#3761023)
      This is very true, in fact last year I witnessed a motorcycle accident in State College, Pa (location of my Alma Mater, PSU). When I called 911 to tell them of the accident, they did not ask me for my location, rather, she asked my to confirm if I was infact on East College avenue by the OfficeMax and the Supermarket.

      Cell phone location is possible without GPS by timing the signal arrival between different towers. This is not nearly effective as GPS, but this time they hit it right on the head. Unfortunately, this non-GPS solution is much more expensive and less accurate than the GPS route, but nonetheless effective in semi-rural areas such as where I was.

      Read about this technology here [].
      • I think you might be a little on the paranoid side. Were you the first person to report a motorcycle accident within the first few minutes of it happening? Dispatch operators tend to be in near proximity to each other, and likely have some form of information sharing, if not simply overhearing the call next to them.
      • Cell phone location is possible without GPS by timing the signal arrival between different towers. This is not nearly effective as GPS...

        Umm... That's how GPS works. Your reciever times the arrival of signals from several sattelites and decides where it is. Cell tower positioning is the same thing with the work being done at the other end.

        Keeping records and triangulating isn't "much more expensive and less accurate" than launching and maintaining a constellation of sattelites. It's just more expensive to reinvent the wheel. It is more accurate, however; a good GPS signal isn't always there, but if you're on the phone, you are hooked in to the towers.

  • by Sean Clifford ( 322444 ) on Tuesday June 25, 2002 @12:01AM (#3760967) Journal
    This point has been hammered home time and again, but it's obvious that Americans (and everyone else, but talking US in this specific instance) need privacy legislation. Unfortunately, the only kind they're likely to get is the sort put forth by the distinguished Senator from Disney.

    Obviously, opt-out should be the default, otherwise an undue burden of opting-out on tens of thousands of databases would be placed on the individual.

    Unfortunately, with the current climate ushered in by the War on *.*, we're not likely to see anything remotely resembling protection of civil liberties for years to come.

    Until we fight collection and access to this data, we're all going to be run against "terrorist" profiles. The feds might decide that your choice of cusine this weekend fits a "terrorist diet" profile - though to pick a point with the article I think a visit from the feds is much more likely to result from a /. post than a visit to the supermarket.

  • by stuffman64 ( 208233 ) <> on Tuesday June 25, 2002 @12:04AM (#3760974)
    I should have included this in my original post, but PopSci also has a good article about the E911 GPS service in their most recent issue. I thought I saw it on their site, but apparently it is not there.

    Here [] is another feature which links to a website that can map out a route in Manhattan to avoid its 2400 or so security cameras watching your every move. If you happened to read the article, a link to this also appears to the right.

    By now you would think I work for Popular Science. I have no job. I employ my University with a $24,000 per year salary.
  • I'm one of those believers that if you don't have anything to hide, you wouldn't be concerned about privacy. I don't do anything bad; I'm not about to blow up the Chuck E. Cheese's down the street with a dirty bomb or anything. And the GPS enabled cell phones could help with rescur operations, like in the article. In fact, the article in the magazines mention stuff about GPS locations being beamed only if a button is pressed. The article also mentions ATM cameras, street cameras, the supermarket discount cards, tollbooths, IM's, emails, medical insurance databases, and more. There is not really anything new for the well-educated slashdotter though.
    • On some points, I'm inclined to agree with you, but. Us Americans are in a capitalist society, and profiteers will capitalize on anything to milk more money out of the masses. It's one thing for government to have access to data about me. In some cases, it's a necessery evil.

      When it comes to advertising and marketers, I fall back to the basics: Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Notably, that liberty part. Why should I have to waste my free time wading through ads I may not be interested in? If I'm paying all the costs to maintain my cell phone, why should anyone be freely allowed to send ads to it? What if I'm not interested in geophysically targeted marketing? Why should I have to turn my phone off to avoid it, when I may be expecting an important call, or an unexpected emergency call comes through?

      Overall, I thought the article to be fairly bland, and frankly, rather alarmist.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      "I'm one of those believers that if you don't have anything to hide, you wouldn't be concerned about privacy."

      I won't spend a lot of time pounding on the fact that you are posting under an alias, rather than yor real name, though I will mention it. 8-).

      My problem is not that I'm afraid for my actions to be publically recorded, but that I might be victimized by the local government. For example, if I kiss my date good night at her door, and there's an ordinance against PDA (Public Display of Affection), then I'm ticketed an fined.

      It's not so much the good laws as the bad laws that you want to avoid.

      I guess if you want to get technical, I'm for "hiding" from bad laws.

      -- Terry
    • by Fat Casper ( 260409 ) on Tuesday June 25, 2002 @03:45AM (#3761348) Homepage
      I don't do anything bad; I'm not about to blow up the Chuck E. Cheese's down the street with a dirty bomb or anything.

      That's shortsighted as hell. Maybe nothing you do is "bad" now, but maybe something you do will be illegal tomorrow. There are plenty of things that are perfectly legal that are unpopular as hell. Voting is legal, but the idea of the secret ballot is the only thing that makes it work. Privacy is more vital to our lives than simply not going to jail.

      Remember: If we let Bush and Ashcroft tear up our Constitution, then the terrorists have already won.

      • Funny how we fantasize in our games and movies about crime, terrorism and blowing things up in general but then act shocked when someone actually does it in real life. A nation of closet cases if you ask me.
    • "First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me."

      - Martin Niemoeller

      "Those who would trade freedom for a little temporary security
      deserve neither freedom nor security.".

      - Ben Franklin

      The question is not why are they watching you now. The question is why they will be watching you in 10, 20, 50 years. The simple fact is, no government avoids tyranny for a very long time, and our founding fathers knew it. With this kind of precedent set, a future, less nice, government basically has free reign over your data.

      It's funny, the American revolution was fought over far smaller violations than the current American government commits every single day. I always find questions like "what would Thomas Jefferson do" in regards to current political questions. Thomas Jefferson would overthrow the US government with armed force. Thomas Jefferson was a terrorist / patriot / freedom-fighter.

  • by interactive_civilian ( 205158 ) <mamoru@gm a i l . com> on Tuesday June 25, 2002 @12:14AM (#3761004) Homepage Journal
    From the 5:47 pm: Discount card section:

    Meanwhile, Larry Ponemon, the CEO of Privacy Council, says that since September 11 he's been hired by at least one major supermarket chain to oversee the handing over to law enforcement agencies of the buying records of customers with specific ethnic backgrounds. The authorities requested the data, Ponemon says, because they were trying to compile a profile of "terrorist eating habits."

    So, what exactly are the eating habits of a terrorist? Do they all eat the same thing? Can I be flagged as a terrorist because I enjoy Mid-East food? Or, perhaps I am one of those "axis of evil" Korean people because I like kimchi and yaki-niku(ok, so that one is Japanese/Korean food)...

    Is anyone else at least moderately (understatement) disturbed by the compiling of a profile of "terrorist eating habits"? It seems insanely useless to me. The idea that someone might get "special attention" because of the way he/she eats...pffft. The sad thing is, I won't be at all surprised if/when this happens.

    • Dont you know? This is one of the government's ways to funnel money to black ops groups. Seriously. There's things we do that teh public wouldn't want to know about. Since it's not a war, we funnel money from "profilings".
    • by PacoTaco ( 577292 ) on Tuesday June 25, 2002 @12:40AM (#3761063)
      The authorities requested the data, Ponemon says, because they were trying to compile a profile of "terrorist eating habits."

      To allay suspicion, be sure to buy pork or alcohol every time you go to the store.

    • Its a Scienceitifly proven fact that all terrorists don't eat ham and pinnaple pizza, instead go for crappy flavours like Tuna and Sweetcorn!
      So remember all, next time you are at a LAN party, and some sick terrorist bastard orders tuna and sweetcorn, kill the fucker, for [Queen and] Country.
    • I don't know, I can think of one example where some terrorist profilling would make things a little more sane. After the twin tower thing I flew up to see my dad in NC, just about everyone in the line at the security gates was being checked. It was like trying to go through customs coming from Columbia. Specifically I saw a young white woman holding a toddler in one arm opening up her bag for some jackass security attendant with the all while trying to tend to an upset baby in a stroller next to her. I'm all for racial, gender, sexual preference equality, but has an expectant mother or an little old grandma or teenage girl EVER hijacked a plane or commited an act of terrorism?! I'm only assuming of course that many of those types of people that I saw being checked, were checked because of politically correct reasons.( For all i know the security guy could have seen loads of C4 peeking out of the mother's baby's anus. )

      • by gilroy ( 155262 ) on Tuesday June 25, 2002 @03:15AM (#3761288) Homepage Journal
        Blockquoth the poster:

        I'm all for racial, gender, sexual preference equality, but has an expectant mother or an little old grandma or teenage girl EVER hijacked a plane or commited an act of terrorism?!

        Don't be an idiot. As soon as the authorities adopt an exlcusive rule -- "We won't stop grandmothers" -- they open up a huge hole in their procedures, one which will get exploited. How many people ever crashed 767 into skyscrapers after hijacking them with paper cutters? The only way such procedures as searches can be effective is if they are either (a) universal or (b) truly random and very frequent. Any pattern employed can be used against the search. Why do you think Al Queada is trying to recruit "ordinary" Americans??

        From where I sit, all this whining about "They even search gradmas, for Pete's sake" seems to come from people who are all for waging war but don't want to pay even the tiny price of extra time in the airports. "Let's you and them fight, but as soon as this 'war' involves sacrifice on my part, we need to reconsider." And generally it's not really the 76-year-old grandma that they want excluded from the search -- it's the safe-seeming white middle class.

        • In VietNam, and I understand this has also happened in the Middle East, little kids and doddery old people were routinely strapped full of explosives and sent into "enemy" camps. So, no, you can't discount the possibility, or it's not just a hole in security procedure, it's an outright invitation.

          (Not that the current security methods work in the first place, but..)

      • but has an expectant mother or an little old grandma or teenage girl EVER hijacked a plane or commited an act of terrorism?!

        Are you serious?

        Do you ever what the news, or doesn't your news cover the middle-east?

        Only some weeks ago, a teenage girl blew her self up in Israel. In fact, it was the first time that a bomber was a teenage girl, which is why it made international news.

        So much for your ideas of gender profiling.

  • by josh crawley ( 537561 ) on Tuesday June 25, 2002 @12:31AM (#3761039)
    --Mark withdraws $100 at his bank's ATM machine.

    Big suprise. Guess what that black dome is above it. I'll give you a clue, the sticker that says "Camera" is right... Also, I'd expect the bank to keep the records for at least 10 years (census data/back taxes).

    --Mark enters his office building and takes the elevator to 5. (cameras..)

    Guess how much theft happens in places like that... They're just defending against that. And if trust between your employer is an issue, you can always get a different job. Just be glad they dont lock the fire doors like they did in the early 1900's.

    --Mark writes a friend: "No raise. My boss is a liar."

    Unless you're using heavy encryption AND sending to a secure source (someone who wont blab), he's an IDIOT. I'd laugh and then find a different way to fire/lay him off.

    --Mark IMs his girlfriend: "Don't worry about last night. I'll get tested. Love you."

    Anybody's who heard of DSniff wont be saying stuff like this over ANY network.

    --Mark deletes a file containing freelance work he did for a competitor.

    We've went over this in every major publication. This should NOT be new material. And figuring the crowd is the SciAM subscribers (me), I'd figure the average computer security like this would be common knowledge.

    --Mark calls a friend from the street at his lunch break. "Dude, she wants me to get an AIDS test," he confides.

    We know that cell phones are NOT safe. They're broadcast devices. Even during 9-11, some senator said that getting cell records were trivial at best.

    --Almost home, Mark stops to buy deodorant and toilet paper; the card saves him 36 cents.

    Dead horse. I simply state that I will fill in fake info if you give me one. I then take one, scribble through it, use it, and then toss it on the ground. Stores are pulling this shit, so I do the same.

    --Mark shows his driver's license to enter his favorite bar.

    I'd demand to talk to the bar manager, demand to know why he thinks he has the right to STEAL my information. If he doesnt let me in, I go elsewhere and LET both bars know that.

    A lot of this "information stealing" is the cost of life in this type of society. Much of that data is useless. Simply, use your head. If it seems weird (like idiots who want to pre-approve you for a cred card) TELL EM' NO!

    • --Mark shows his driver's license to enter his favorite bar.

      I'd demand to talk to the bar manager, demand to know why he thinks he has the right to STEAL my information. If he doesnt let me in, I go elsewhere and LET both bars know that.

      Um, they have to check your ID, it's the law. If the bar get's caught with drunk minors on the premises, they get shut down. You could let both bars know how you feel about it, but both bars won't let you in.
      • There is a difference between checking your ID and taking your personal information without your consent. When I show my ID to the people at the door I am giving them permission to confirm that I am indeed old enough to enter the premises and to confirm that the ID card I have is real. I did not give them permission to store my age / sex / anything else stored on my card so they can better target there market. If they want that type of information they should ask me for it.
    • A lot of this "information stealing" is the cost of life in this type of society.

      Which, of course, is the whole point of this article. Just because it's obvious doesn't mean it's not bad.


  • I think I speak for many here when I say...


  • If you want privacy stay away from technology and be vigilent.

    Get ride of the cell phone, unplug from the internet, hell get ride of the computer, since cash is still not tracked (just yet. . .), pay with cash.

    Don't buy a new car with a gps locator, don't take loans. No debt cards, no bank account. Wear gloves, no finger prints.

    This can go on and on depending on how paranoid you are.

    The thing is most of us want the convience of the technology and thus we are willing to give up little bits and pieces of information about ourselves here or there. To the grocery store, to the bank, to the piggies, etc. . .
  • by Nonesuch ( 90847 ) on Tuesday June 25, 2002 @12:58AM (#3761092) Homepage Journal
    The "Popular Science" article is technically weak, the scenario described is more fear-mongering than actual facts. For example:

    Because Mark's e-mails travel across the Web, copies of them may also reside in the computers of the various service providers that carry Internet traffic. These files, and all of Mark's other Internet activity, are accessible to the government.

    Just trying to count the number of technical mis-statements in those two sentences alone makes my head hurt.

    Popular? Yes.
    Science? Barely.

  • Okay, I am seriously not trying to troll here, but - while I agree we do need to protect our right to keep information private, I can't help but play devil's advocate.

    I want to be able to withhold information to myself, that much is sure. Maybe Ive scribbled an equation to some new form of energy on a piece of paper. No one or government has a right to that except me. But the rest of it, like the GPS enabled phones... Okay, so 20 years from now the "government" can take over some cell phone company and tell where everyone on a cell phone is standing. Then the "government" can build a massive database of EVERYONE's web traffic, and see that 2/3 the country visits porno sites, then the "government" builds a database and see's that you've flown from Floria to New Hampshire 5 times this year! For all 300 million citizens of America. NOW what? So how does that bring about the destruction of our world? Does the "government" (the same one you see made of honest NYC Firemen, and young Marines that were the friends and family you grew up with, the same American's that will remove Bill Maher from TV just because he thought for himself and said "running airplanes into buildings isn't cowardly" (ie, we are overly-politically correct), these same people are going to up and one day decide "okay, everyone who's looked at a porno website and eaten vanilla ice cream in the last 30 days, you're all getting baked in an oven." When does this happen? And what purpose does it serve? I think everyone looks at Nazi Germany and thinks that if we get GPS cellphones that's the next logical step. The world is a different place now. The bright light of the media is "EVERYWHERE" and loves stories and exploitations. If the "government" wants to single out a group of people based on information, say, religious preference, they can just go to all the churches of one kind with a pickup truck and take them away. It isn't going to start or stop with GPS cellphones. Again, I want privacy, I expect privacy "for those things I have made or do on my own in my own private home". Why do we expect privacy when dealing with the outside world? You're on tape going in to K-Mart, every CC purchase you make is logged. If you call customer service at your electric company the call is taped. You have decided you want to deal with the public. You will realize there will be records of it. How much privacy do you think there is in a 25 person african village? How about a small midwestern town? Stop expecting privacy when using services provided by someone other than yourself.

  • CRAP (Score:3, Troll)

    by jukal ( 523582 ) on Tuesday June 25, 2002 @01:27AM (#3761141) Journal
    You could hope that articles like this never got posted on Slashdot - atleast without any critisim in the intro to the article. Slashdot is supposed to have readers that atleast pretend to know something about technology. It is very easy to write a such of terrifying provocating horrorshow of article on about any matter related to technology. The popular science magazine, in this case, is just the "popularism magazine".

    If you want to read something real about the same matter, browse to EFF 'Privacy - Surveillance & Wiretapping' Archive [].
  • The lack of privacy is disturbing, but it wouldn't be as bad if I could at least access all the information people are collecting about me. For example, I'd actually be curious to see what I buy at the grocery store (and maybe the time of day, season, etc. when I buy it) over a 6-month period.
  • the truth of the matter is that you have EXACTLY as much privacy as you want. The popular science article made a lot of assumptions. If you're that paranoid,

    1) Dont use ATMS
    2) work where there isn't tight security
    3) dont write personal email or send IMs from work
    4) keep your files where they belong
    5) go to a doctor that does not share medical information
    6) dont use a discount card
    7)Dont let them scan your license
    8)Dont use an I-pass or a GPS.
    9)For god sakes dont use a cell phone.

    People selling your information are not people that you cant live without. (the medical community being a notable exception) You dont have to move to Montana or become a recluse to maintain your privacy. We sometimes assume that these things are needed to maintain a life, but they are not. A combination of lifestyle and policy can keep you out of the system.
  • "No federal laws protect the privacy of medical records."

    This part is just plain wrong. There is indeed a federal law to protect the privacy of medical records, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). It's not in effect yet because there are provisions in the law that give health providers a specific amount of time to bring their organizations into compliance after the publication of the rules. The rules have been published. The clock is ticking and health care providers are spending big $$$ right now to implement their plans for compliance by the deadline. The law implements real fundamental changes in the way personal health information is handled (including required logging of every access to medical records and serious penalties for misappropriation of patient data).

  • At least not on /.

    "/Popular Science/ is running an /excellent article/" (emphasis added)
  • Not like this didn't happen before, at times. Back in colonial times, people's houses weren't exactly built well, and half of them probably had no glass. Anyone could sit around and hear your every words in almost total privacy. You could go to the local store and say, 'the usual, please' the they would know what you meant. They might even suggest items. People weren't demanding total privacy back then. Now, people get pissy when their IM programs don't come with an 'invisible' option or their LiveJournal doesn't have a 'no-read' post option.
    • Back in colonial times, the government was our enemy. You might not have had any glass for your window, but if all the King's men wanted to hear your seditious ideas about personal freedoms and representative government, they needed to plant an actual person in your yard. With today's technology they can capture any data they like and then look back in time to selectively reconstruct your guilt.

      All you have to do is be a member of a group to get ethnically or otherwise profiled and the FBI will come down. Not on you in particular, but if your name comes up on the wrong list, good bye. Not that I feel strongly about Skakel, but isn't it worrying that Connecticut (and probably elsewhere) law allowed a murder conviction based entirely on circumstantial evidence? I don't know or care if he did it- I disapprove of the law that allowed that conviction. Now you were saying that I shouldn't worry about my privacy?

  • But a lot of the stuff I read in the article doesn't bother me.

    -My boss reading my email?? At work, it's not my email!
    -My boss reading my IMs at work? It's not my network!
    -Cameras on the street? It's a public place, they can film if they want!
    -If I go to a bar and they keep my name on record, well, it's their bar. I can buy a beer and go home and drink. Now if they sell that information, that's something else...

    Don't get me wrong, I'm not agreeing with everything....

    -Collecting and selling my medical records? That's shameful and these people should be castrated.
    -Forcing my ISP to release information is also shameful. My personal surfing habits are my business.

    I just feel that you can't expect to have complete privacy everywhere you go. Your personal life is your own, but anything you do in public is exactly that, public.

  • by CProgrammer98 ( 240351 ) on Tuesday June 25, 2002 @03:57AM (#3761367) Homepage
    From the article
    "In May of this year, for example, an 18-year-old Miami girl was kidnapped and murdered on a Saturday night. By working with her bank to track transactions on her ATM card, the police were able to follow her abductors as they traveled from one location to another"

    If the privacy advocates had their way, this criminal would probably still be out there.

    'nuff said.

    • actually.. no, since a properly controlled policeforce may have legitimate interests in the data (such as the case you mentioned)

    • If the privacy advocates had their way, this criminal would probably still be out there.

      That's untrue and inflammatory.

      I am a privacy advocate. The girl is dead. There is nothing to change that.

      So whats the big deal? Go to a judge, get a subpoena for her bank records, and in a few moments you'll have them. It'd take any competent DA/Detective perhaps 15 minutes to get a subpeona. Is that so hard?

      See that way we know the police are using bank records to find criminals, and not to harrass citizens (been known to happen); and not to find a hot date (known to happen); and not to cover their own criminal actions (known to happen).

      Checks and balances. It works.
  • by Moderation abuser ( 184013 ) on Tuesday June 25, 2002 @04:21AM (#3761407)
    1. Use cash, not credit cards, for a start. Take out the most the ATMs will allow at any one time.

    2. Buy a prepay mobile phone, pay cash for the top-up cards.

    3. Set up free email addresses with Yahoo and the like. Use one address to get others.

    4. Don't use encryption. Or alternatively, get *everyone* else to use encryption, but don't raise a flag over your mails.

    5. Don't bother with store loyalty cards. I mean, are you really bothered about 5p off a product?

    6. Support/use your local family grocer or market rather than the big chain stores.

    There's more you can do, but doing the above is simple and will reduce your information profile significantly.

    • by thelen ( 208445 ) on Tuesday June 25, 2002 @05:50AM (#3761513) Homepage

      I think it's a mistake to approach the problem in terms of minimizing the footprint you leave. Why set yourself up in opposition to the system when you can utilize it's own methods to protect yourself?

      For instance, why not use a grocery card with purchases that you would *want* people to see, like that you buy lots of broccoli and juice? In the worst case scenario, if an insurance company ever saw those records they'd believe you had lower cancer risk. Pay in cash for things you want them *not* to see, such as the bag of chocolates, smokes and double bottle of cheap red wine.

      Put books on gardening and cooking on your credit card bill, pay in cash for books on hacking.

      Use an ordinary mobile phone except for when you truly *need* privacy, and for god's sake turn it off when you cross state lines to buy grass!

      Set up email accounts in several different classes: One that you *want* identified with you for legitimate personal/professional contact; one for questionable personal use (e.g., dirty jokes) that you access through a proxy server; one as a throwaway that you don't really care about, say for registration sites. And don't mix them up!

      The point is to understand the system well enough to *purposely shape* the profile that's built of you rather than eliminating it all together. The latter option is becoming increasingly unrealistic.

    • by Junta ( 36770 ) on Tuesday June 25, 2002 @07:44AM (#3761718)
      1) Ok, so wow, they don't know what you buy, but at any one point you have hundreds of dollars on your person at a given time, and if you either get robbed or drop your wallet, well, you are pretty well screwed. An alternative is to make your purchases at the most generic place you can when you buy something. For example, knowing you bought something at a general store is not very informative as opposed to a purchase at a games store.

      2) Never signed up for a prepay cell phone, this may be a good strategy, again, paying in cash may not buy you much though.

      3) Also a fine point for the paranoid, but I'm not sure all these huge companies are all trading personal information so that any email address can be tracked down to someone.

      4) Now this is just damn stupid. This is like telling someone to send all important information on a post card instead of in an envelope. Sure, an encrypted email may raise a flag somewhere, but if you use good encryption and use it for as much of your email as possible, pretty much no one short of the NSA is going to decipher your mail and after the NSA wastes enough time deciphering "Hello, how have you been?" messages, they may decide they are not worth the trouble. And if you believe they will try to read each and every encrypted email even if history shows all to be benign in your case, they would probably be reading your plaintext mail, especially if it happened to contain a few keywords.

      5) Alternatively I would say feed the personal information out with bogus data, better yet get your friends to do the same and swap cards ever so often. That way you save money and provide no personal information.

      6) If a local grocer or market exists, then yes, this is a nice thing to do, for more reasons than just protecting personal information. In fact, if your sole goal is protection of private informaiton this is not a good strategy. The better strategy would be to cycle your shopping among different stores and have those stores be far away, just because you aren't being electronically tracked does not mean other people can't look and see what you buy. If you are going to be paranoid, might as well be extremely paranoid.

      I'm not that protective of my information, I really don't have anything to hide from the NSA. Encrypted email may set off flags, but I don't give a damn, I don't trust post cards and so I don't trust email, and if the NSA knows I'm telling my friend he can come over this weekend, I don't care.

      I like protecting what I can from common eyes, but do not obssess over whether executives at Food Lion know I bought beef last week, or even that my bank knows I bought something expensive from an electronics store a while back. Protecting privacy is all good, but there is a point where the inconveniences are just overboard to protect data that no one is really interested in anyway, or at least data that can't really be used against you.
  • Human societies work best when there is little or no privacy in communal areas. We evolved to live in small villages where nothing was private unless you trekked across a mountainside to be alone.
    People just don't behave themselves unless they know they are being watched and either criticized or given approval. This applies to drivers, policemen, government employees, hackers, anyone, as far as I can see.

    One of the nice things about IT is its ability to blast huge holes in walls of 'privacy'. Don't forget that every nasty corporation hoping to turn a quick buck by selling private data can eventually be subject to the same inspection as Joe Schmo driving to work.
    • Don't forget that every nasty corporation hoping to turn a quick buck by selling private data can eventually be subject to the same inspection as Joe Schmo driving to work.

      You mean that we can sell their private data?

      People go to prison for that sort of thing.

      I also take issue with your assertion that I misbehave when left to my own devices.

      The only thing that a loss of privacy will bring is more targetted advertising, and more targetted attacks on members of minority groups by the majority.

      There was a case here in the UK a couple of years ago involving a little girl that was killed by a paedophile. Some groups of parents around the country started protesting against known and suspected paedophiles in their community, occasionally going as far as hounding them out and forcing them to move.

      All fine, right? After all, paedophiles are evil, right?

      Only trouble is that one of the people forced out was a paediatrician. The mob just saw the "paed" prefix and went baying for blood. She'd still be living in the same house now and would've been spared the experience if she'd only had a little more privacy.

      As for the mob, they were interviewed on TV regularly over the course of a week or so. Lack of privacy didn't stop them, it encouraged them - they wanted people to sit up and take notice, to get a law passed forcing police to inform people of paedophiles that moved into the area.

      My personal feeling is that a lack of privacy will do little to improve society, and has the potential to expose even more people to victimisation and pressure to conform. But then, I was teased at school and am "different" now, so I guess my outloook isn't as rosy as it could be.


  • by macsforever2001 ( 32278 ) on Tuesday June 25, 2002 @07:30AM (#3761687) Homepage

    Lessons Learned:

    • To get cash, wear a facemask at the ATM machine.
    • Use the stairs instead of the elevator.
      • If in a skyscraper - do not pick your nose in the elevator.
    • Do not get AIDS.
    • Get a digital cell phone, not an analog one.
    • Do not go to bars - at least ones that ID you.
    • Do not use those lame bonus cards at the grocery store.
    • For Tollbooths, do not get those nice EZpass things. Just use cash.
    • Do not buy a car with a fancy GPS based navigation system.
      • Make sure your car rental does not have one either - go with the economy car.
    • At work: Do not disparage your company or boss via email - or at least use PGP.
    • At work: Do not waste time surfing the web... damn busted!

    For thieves and low-lifes only:

    • After you have robbed another person, do not use their ATM card as you travel.
    • Do not steal a car with a fancy GPS based navigation system.
    • Do not go to an airport, walk near public buildings or walk the streets of a major city
    • When erasing computer files to hide corporate fraud, use a program that overwrites the free space.

    Does anyone know where I can download that "Caught In The Act" video?

  • From the article:

    Meanwhile, Larry Ponemon, the CEO of Privacy Council, says that since September 11 he's been hired by at least one major supermarket chain to oversee the handing over to law enforcement agencies of the buying records of customers with specific ethnic backgrounds. The authorities requested the data, Ponemon says, because they were trying to compile a profile of "terrorist eating habits."

    There is nothing that can be added to that.

  • IMHO, the real crux of the privacy debate never gets stated clearly.

    It is this: there are many people who believe that invasion of privacy is perfectly OK as long as it is done only in pursuit of commerce.

    In other words, if they have a dossier on you and they use it to blacklist you and prevent you from getting work, that's wrong; but as long as all they do with it is use it to sell you things, that's OK.

    I happen to believe myself that it is definitely not OK. But I think it would clarify the debate if it clear that, currently, that's at the core of what the debate is about.

    By the way, don't you wonder whether companies really use all that marketing information in the positive ways they suggest ("If you just bought a recumbent bike, wouldn't you actually LIKE to get catalogs of gear for recumbent bikes?") or whether it's really being used for electronic redlining?

  • Is a great infoporn story in the latest Wired.
  • In America, maybe in your home.

    In other countries, maybe in between your ears.

    The world has become too dangerous to let anyone have privacy.

    And it will remain so until we ACT on declarations of war, Jihad and Fatwah and paint a bull's eye on the declarator's forehead and blow it off.

    There will be no peace for the US and no return to the less expensive and freer way of life until we have a government hit squad who are mandated openly and supported with funds who'se mission is to terminate with extreme prejudice any individual who overtly declares war, Jihad and Fatwah on us.

    Its that simple.

    Now it would be CHEAPER to do it that way but Americans will just suck up the cost and kiss their privacy good bye because they're idiots and the terrorists will still be able to organize covertly and then come here and blow up busses and mail boxes.

    This loss of privacy will NOT address the covert operations but a publicly supported "Hit Squad" might eliminate the public justification and posturing and fund-rasing efforts. (Box cutters and twenty plane tickets may have been cheap but testing out the strategy and feeding, clothing and housing the animals who destroyed the WTC cost. Without Osama's millions, it wouldn't have happened.)

    But until Islam recovers some sense of shame about hom-/suic-icide, your best bet is making wide spread use of electric energy and a nice, brightly painted, thermo-nuclear device on a tall pole planted in Mecca displaying a simple message: "Attack us and we set this off!"
  • We have as much privacy as most people [in our respective, democratic countries] want, or think they deserve, to have. Scary, isn't it?
  • by Arandir ( 19206 ) on Tuesday June 25, 2002 @01:30PM (#3764069) Homepage Journal
    There is no right of privacy. No, this isn't a troll. It's the truth. Our expections of privacy are not rights, just expectations. Legally transforming these expectations into rights is a guarantee that the Law of Unexpected Consequences will be invoked.

    Throughout most of human existance privacy was a virtual unknown. Communities were small enough that everyone knew everyone else. Everyone knew where you were, where you were going, and what you were going to do when you got there. The only privacy you had was within your own home if you were lucky enough to have one. Back then (prior to a mere few decades ago) privacy meant solitude

    Jump to today. We are so confused over privacy it's almost funny. We would be incensed if everyone knew that we were buying condoms online, yet we buy them at the local drug store in plain sight. We display outrage when a website tracks our addresses, yet we post our real estate listings in the local paper. We wonder why PGP hasn't caught on for email with the general public, yet we yack on the cell phone in the clear all day long.

    The big disconnect is easy to explain. We think we have an expectation of privacy because we are sitting in a chair in our homes with the curtains closed. But in reality we are online spewing out personal information as fast as we can over the internet. Here's an experiment. Go buy the very same product three times. The first time buy it online using your personal computer from your home. The second time buy it online using a computer sitting in a public library. The third time buy it from a brick and mortar retailer.

    We should have, and must have, privacy within our own homes, including the harddrives of the computers within our homes. But that privacy ends at the walls of our homes. Once we engage in communication beyond our house walls, it's up to us to make our own privacy by using encryption, anonymizers or whatnot.

Premature optimization is the root of all evil. -- D.E. Knuth