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The Privacy Richter Scale 75

Hugh Pickens writes "Jay Cline writes that not all privacy issues are created equal and proposes a privacy Richter scale to rank the bad things that could happen to our privacy. A privacy Richter 1 or 2 event is a temporary bad turn for you or a handful of people, but nothing systemic, posing no lasting harm to individuals or society as a whole. Examples include receiving someone else's mail, having someone expose something embarrassing about you to co-workers or friends, or losing your wallet or purse. Privacy events measuring 4 to 7 on the scale are risks that can cause real and lasting damage to a lot of people and include stolen laptops containing thousands of Social Security numbers and credit-card numbers that would allow identity thieves to make fraudulent transactions that could impact credit scores for years. Finally events topping 8 are points of no return for large numbers of people and society as a whole. DARPA's Total Information Awareness program, proposed in 2002 and defunded by Congress in 2003, would have topped the scale. 'The massive collection of data about U.S. citizens could have created a perpetual bureaucracy that put at risk our right of due process and protection against unlawful search and seizure.' So where does Google's plan to consolidate its 60 privacy policies into a single approach rank? 'The current change ranks at a 3,' writes Cline. 'Larry Page's company will weather this change. I don't see irreparable or lasting harm or loss of liberty. If you don't like Google, use Bing. Don't watch weird things on YouTube. You shouldn't be sending confidential things through Gmail in the first place.'"
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The Privacy Richter Scale

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 08, 2012 @06:49AM (#39285761)

    "You shouldn't be sending confidential things through Gmail in the first place.'"

    I'm not saying this is bad advice. But the fact that it is not bad advice, REALLY PISSES ME OFF. Not because I even use gmail- as I was hosting a squirrelmail server for my older brother and family before gmail existed, and don't store any quantity of my email on a corporate server for any length of time. But because gmail is what _everyone else_ is using for their email (to the extent that the younguns who won't get off my gedanken lawn use email at all, vs facebook). But enough about my lawn... my point is, that as a 36 year old computer engineer, who literally came of age in college during the deployment of the internet to the masses, then a decade later saw the T.I.A. etc... It's just so, so, sad. Maybe I was naive, but it really felt like people used to have an _expectation of privacy_, for things as basic as person to person long distance communication. E.g. snail mail and phone calls back in the days. These days, I honestly suspect that even when my cell phone appears to be off, that the government and other organized criminals, can and do listen into to my home. I.e. "the walls literally do have ears". But even setting asside that paranoia, and returning to the mundane level of paranoia/common-sense in the quote I'm taking issue with (don't use gmail for confidential communication), I just can't express how sad and disappointed with society I am, even with that level of paranoia now being accepted as common sense. I mean- people need to have an expectation of privacy. They need to feel like they can talk about confidential, personal, private things with their friends and family a hundred or a thousand miles away. And it really just isn't feasible. You still have to practically be one of the 1% tech illuminati to use encryption and actually feel like that even matters. Honestly, I'm the computer engineer, that perhaps a clinically paranoid schizophrenic, has just given up. I figure just using browsers and visiting sites requiring closed source browser plugins (read: the internet), probably makes my entire system insecure to the point that using encryption is pointless, even if the gubernment can't already crack that at will (or will be able to crack the recorded logs a few years down the line when either quantum computing works better, or they just find an obscure flaw or weakness combined with more brute force and the current systems). I dunno man... It's just sad. I had this vision of the internet actually allowing long distance communication of confidential things. Like minority political and philisophical discussion. But no, the world turned out to the point where people just deal with the fact that even though the tech is there, because of attitudes and government surveillance, we just shouldn't try to have confidential exchanges of communication except in person. Sigh... I hate america. And it may be the best of the lot. sad, so sad.

  • by dragisha ( 788 ) <(dragisha) (at) (> on Thursday March 08, 2012 @08:45AM (#39286309)

    In Bosnia and Herzegowina we have national id cards. We had them also in former Yugoslavia, so - nothing new here. Except these new ones are barcoded so it is easy to register us on border checkpoints and like. Every time I cross border, they put my id card in scanner and register passage...
    But, we also have long established practice of copying our id card for lots of procedures/applications at banks, telecoms and such. You come to open bank account (like I did just today) and they get your id card and copy both sides... What is interesting, today my friend witnessed this, and he works for another company copying id cards a lot... He was surprised when he saw bank clerk copying id card because at his company they spent friday-sunday destroying all copied id cards because of recent law forbiding this id card data collection. At least somebody came to his senses...
    Imagine that, tons of identities in hundreds of binders in tens of companies... Looks like Fukushima to me :).

Life in the state of nature is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. - Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan