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Have We Lost Our Privacy To the Internet? 222

An anonymous reader writes "An article in the Guardian, penned by Joss Wright and Tom Chatfield, discusses whether we — as in Internet users in general — are, or indeed are not, giving away way too much information about ourselves to large Corporations that profit handsomely from mining the info. The article talks about how contemporary internet companies — perhaps predictably — are run with a 'privacy is dead' motto. It considers what implications having all your private data out on the internet — where it can be seen, searched, shared, retransmitted, perhaps archived forever without your consent — has for the 'future of our society' (by which the authors presumably mean the society of the UK). The (rather long) article ends by mentioning that Gmail scans your email, that Facebook apps frequently send your private data right to the app developer, that iPhones are known to log your geographic location, and that some smartphone apps read your address book and messages, then dial home to transmit this info to the company that developed the app."
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Have We Lost Our Privacy To the Internet?

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  • by multiben ( 1916126 ) on Sunday March 04, 2012 @07:01PM (#39242495)
    Just try shutting down your facebook account and then answer this question. My fingerprints are smeared all over the internet mainly because of Facebook alone. The cat is out of the bag and no matter what I do I can't get it back in. I don't really have much to hide, but man I shudder for those that do.
  • Re:I believe so. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 04, 2012 @07:08PM (#39242531)

    We spent thousands of years with no privacy whatsoever. The idea that we ever had some fanciful idea called "personal privacy" is largely a myth. Even with regard to government monitoring. I don't have to remind anyone about our various national histories.

    But yes, now data collection, correlation and general connectivity have gone through the roof. So we make laws about, bargain over, even make and sell various products and services, all surrounding personal privacy.

    Things ebb and flow.

  • Re:I believe so. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zaelath ( 2588189 ) on Sunday March 04, 2012 @07:10PM (#39242543)
    People seem confused in the differences between "I do nothing illegal" and "I have nothing to hide". If you like to cross dress you most certainly have something to hide from your biker mates, or the chaps at the tennis club, or your patients at the dental surgery, or pretty much anyone else that doesn't enjoy your subculture. Yet there's nothing illegal there.
  • Re:I believe so. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 04, 2012 @07:14PM (#39242567)

    We spent thousands of years with no privacy whatsoever.

    Thankfully, we realized (and have forgotten, apparently) that privacy is not only preferable, but is important to keep the government in check. A government that can break into anyone's house, spy on anyone, and look for the slightest infraction is one that is most prone to abuse.

  • by mindcandy ( 1252124 ) on Sunday March 04, 2012 @07:26PM (#39242673)
    It wasn't "lost" nor was it "taken" .. you traded it for better prizes (free search, free storage, whatever).
  • Re:The irony (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Sunday March 04, 2012 @07:28PM (#39242683)

    Anyone else find it ironic that an anonymous reader submitted an article about losing privacy?

    Seems like the opposite of ironic to me. If you think leaving a permanent record of your actions on the internet is bad for you, then it stands to reason you would do as much as possible to remain anonymous in those actions.

  • by Taco Cowboy ( 5327 ) on Sunday March 04, 2012 @07:29PM (#39242687) Journal

    Privacy is a commodity - a private commodity

    Each of us has our own privacy, and each of us interpret "Privacy" a little bit differently

    As to whether we have given away our privacy to the corporations, I think it's too much of a blanket statement

    You see, privacy is ours to begin with. The decision of whether not our privacy is handed over to the corporation largely falls into our own hand

    If you decide to value your own privacy, then you won't reveal your own real identity online - and there are many ways to keep your real earth identity separate from your online identity

    Plus, if you are so afraid that huge corporations like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook may be gathering your privacy, then you should take step to ensure that whatever they gather from your activities online would not reflect who you are, in real life

    Do not blame the corporations if you reveal everything yourself

    And one more very important thing - Your privacy is not only in danger on the Internet

    There are other areas that your privacy might be revealed to others - like your medical history, your driving licence, your voting records, the secret files the government (governments ?) keeps on you, et cetera

    Do not think that just because your online privacy is threatened that your off-line privacy is not

  • Re:I believe so. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Sunday March 04, 2012 @07:41PM (#39242773) Journal
    And some people are tired of every story, and every political movement, and everything else trying to get us outraged over something or another.

    Chill people, the world is a pretty good place.
  • by Taco Cowboy ( 5327 ) on Sunday March 04, 2012 @07:53PM (#39242841) Journal

    I agree, living in a bubble is awesome! Steve Jobs did!

    It's not "living in a bubble"

    It's merely living your own life without having to tell the world everything about yourself

    I've friends who are loud mouths and they will tell everything about everybody, including everything about themselves to the world

    Hey, to those people, they are willingly revealing where they work, how much they earn, who their doctors are, what type of disease they have, what political inclination they belong to, and so on ...

    For people like that, don't blame the corporations if one day they can't purchase health insurance no more because everyone know that they gonna have cancer to the liver/lung/whatever in the future

    One other thing, these "other ways to protect your privacy" cost money. So, either way companies are still making money off of you.

    Who says that you need to pay to protect your privacy?

    All you need to do is to zip your mouth shut and to be extra careful of what you do online and off-line

    If I do not want people to know where I shop, when I shop, how much I pay for milk a month, I don't shop in ONE store and I don't use my credit card when I do my shopping

    If I do not want people to know the frequency of my travelling from Detroit to Chicago, then I change my mode of transportation often - fly some times, drive some other times

    It all boils down to what you do with your own live

  • Re:I believe so. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by epyT-R ( 613989 ) on Sunday March 04, 2012 @08:02PM (#39242893)

    the state and private enterprise routinely pass data back and forth between the barrier to get around the regs.. it's a hybrid situation so blaming just one of them is pointless..

  • by ArundelCastle ( 1581543 ) on Sunday March 04, 2012 @08:43PM (#39243127)

    I noticed from the logs that google spidered that website within minutes of me sending that email. Not much of a surprise that google would do it (although a bit chilling to see it in practice), but the problem with your approach is that not only do I need to know that Google will suck up everything I send to

    I'm not sure why it's chilling either. Spidering the link immediately delivers "relevant" ads to your Gmail window right away. That is how Gmail is meant to be.

    Chilling would be if your robots.txt is set to turn down spiders and they do it anyway. Chilling is when they don't play by their own rules, not the rules themselves.

  • by next_ghost ( 1868792 ) on Sunday March 04, 2012 @09:23PM (#39243419)
    Encryption is always an option. You can interact with people just fine, just ask them to use proper measures and teach them how if necessary.
  • Re:I believe so. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 04, 2012 @09:48PM (#39243553)

    Privacy died over a decade ago. Only the magnitude of the damage to loss of privacy has been amplified.

    Cookies, Banner Ads, JavaScript, Java Applets, DejaNews (yes, they were the first ones to archive Usenet posts for an indefinite period of time, before they got bought by Google), site redirects by an advertiser. Remember the Sun CEO quote--you have no privacy, get over it (or very close similar words). More recently, using scripts to submit an invisible form on the user's behalf, to knowingly and deliberately browser security to force tracking cookies (not just Google, folks, other advertisers too are still doing this even if Google fixed their issue).

    Only now, more than ever before, is it profitable to hold a user's data hostage, demanding a court order to remove that which the user still owns the copyright over.

    But it isn't new--it's just a much higher severity than ever before when it causes someone embarassment, or the loss of a potential or current job, or when something someone says has been dealt with--it still lives on longer than it should.

    And, most importantly, building up massive user profile for the stupid fucking dream that a user will not only intentionally click on an ad (as opposed to accidentally when the ad interfered with where they intended to click) and even more ludicrous, that the same user will actually buy something just because the ad stalked them from page to page and targeted them.

  • Re:I believe so. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by grcumb ( 781340 ) on Monday March 05, 2012 @12:10AM (#39244147) Homepage Journal

    We spent thousands of years with no privacy whatsoever. The idea that we ever had some fanciful idea called "personal privacy" is largely a myth.

    I've seen this chestnut trotted out before, but it's not as pertinent as a lot of people would like to think.

    I live in the developing world in a locale where personal privacy is largely as it was 3000 years ago when these islands were first settled. I can assure you that a digital society that records your every action with perfect accuracy is not at all like village life.

    Yes, it's true that everyone here knows everybody else's business. It's not at all unusual for me to meet someone in the street whom I haven't seen in months, and they'll already know what I've been up to earlier in the day. Buildings here are not designed to suppress sound (it's the tropics, don't you know), so you actually have to make an effort to ignore some of the things that happen next door.

    But the local culture has long adapted to these circumstances. Privacy is actually jealously protected, not only by the individuals, but by their neighbours. They'll gossip like crazy, but they will not, for example, let a person's drunken weekend spree come into consideration when they're applying for work.

    Most importantly of all, government and police are not given carte blanche access to their collective knowledge.

    In short, there's a world of difference between a place without privacy and a surveillance society. Let's be clear that in this case we're talking about the latter.

  • Re:I believe so. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Boscrossos ( 997520 ) on Monday March 05, 2012 @10:30AM (#39247257)
    This. Companies like to see big fat black numbers at the bottom of the balance sheet. They really don't sit around stroking a pet of some kind and cackling maniacally at their next scheme to put one over on those nasty consumers. Truth is, they don't care about you, they just want your money. If they see ways to get at it better, they'll use them. In this case, targeted advertising should be more effective,, since it will offer you stuff you want (if the targeting system is halfway smart, at least), so you would more likely be interested. Meanwhile, the company can save money because now they just have to advertise to the people who might buy their stuff instead of to everybody, hoping to hit the few % of consumers who need their product. Basically, it's smart missiles vs carpet bombing, and I think we can all agree that smart missiles should cause less collateral damage.

    Oh, and before anyone gets the wrong idea: I am 100% against companies gathering (and holding indefinitely) personal data of people who did not give it up freely, knowing what they are getting themselves into. But I am also cynical enough to believe that a large percentage of Facebook, smartphone app, etc users would just shrug if you told them, and say they don't really care. Frankly, I myself don't much care if the corporate world knows I want to buy an inflatable pool, a bulk amount of whipped cream, and a used industrial vacuum cleaner. Let them make of that what they will. I do, however, draw the line at personal information I did not give to them. I do not want to receive mail/phone calls/creepy ads that state my (alleged) location/names of my close friends/etc, unless I gave that information to you personally.

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