May 13, 2008

Anyone who knows me knows privacy is a big concern of mine. I’m not a fanatic yet. I refuse to disconnect myself from the digital world – partly because it’s really difficult, partly because I really like the Internet. And obviously, from this blog, I’m even taking the time to make a digital record about myself. But I still try to log out of my Google Account before I begin searching; I still use a fake name if I’m signing up for something trivial; I still fill in as few fields as possible when filling in any forms; I sill share my grocery store card with friends.

It’s not so much the data collection itself bothers me. I understand that without any information about customers it’s awful hard for businesses to try to make things more relevant to every user. I’m annoyed that I don’t know about it until I learn about it in class, that most people don’t even have a clue, that even if they do, they don’t understand the consequences. I at least want to know what’s being collected(!) and the ability to cancel old accounts and be reassured the information isn’t still hidden somewhere.

Not that I have anything to hide, but I’ve spent a good chunk of my life online and the future generations are basically going to be living and breathing there. If one person/company could get all the information out there about me in one place, they would probably know me better than I do! In general, companies and governments have been pretty good about not doing controversial things with collected data (a few exceptions aside, I’m sure). History makes privacy fanatics seem paranoid; there’s really nothing to truly worry over. But Nigel Shadbolt points it out nicely:

‘”If you keep within the law, and the government keeps within the law, and its employees keep within the law, and the computer holding the database doesn’t screw up, and the system is carefully designed according to well-understood software engineering principles and maintained properly, and the government doesn’t scrimp on the outlay and all the data are entered carefully and the police are adequately trained to use the system and the system isn’t hacked into, and your identity isn’t stolen, and the local hardware functions, well, you have nothing to fear.”

With that many ‘ifs’, nothing starts to seem a lot more like something.


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