|The Privacy Backlash is Coming
By: Brett Moneta
Here’s a list of information that’s readily available to anyone about you on the Internet:
· Your name
· Your address
· Your birthday
· Your last five addresses
· Your college
· Your high school
· Where you were born
· Your girlfriend or boyfriend’s names
· Your spouse’s name
· The websites you’ve visited
Scared yet? They say privacy is gone — and maybe they’re right. But let’s be clear. We gave it up. Literally. We posted our thoughts, feelings, photos, birthdays, and more. Sure, we complained and whined along the way. Sometimes we even fought to keep our right to privacy. But let’s face it: we didn’t fight very hard.
What if I walked up to you as a complete stranger and gave you all of the intimate details of my life? If I then said, "Don't share this with anyone else," would you think I was a complete nut job? I’m guessing the answer is yes.
· Your anniversary date
· Your children’s names
· Your mother’s maiden name
· Your extended family’s names
· Your pet’s name (and type)
· Your friends’ names
· Your coworkers’ names
· The names of past coworkers
· What your coworkers think of you
· Photos of you
Sure, this all sounds alarmist, but none of it is paranoid conspiracy. It’s here, it’s happening, and we’re actually welcoming the next privacy breach because it might mean we get a free cup of coffee the next time we visit Starbucks. Is it a fair trade to have access to all of your information from the cloud, if that means everyone else does too? I love the power and convenience of the Web, but I’m not so sure the answer is yes. Especially if I have to share control of my own privacy.
· Photos of your family
· Photos of your friends
· Photos of your childhood
· A timeline of your entire life
· Places you’ve traveled
· Your entire work history
· What you’re thinking
· What you like
· What you don’t like
· Your political beliefs
Many of us have dismissed the privacy issue, saying that it can all be found out by a decent detective. We’ve created excuses like “Who really cares about my personal information, anyway?” or “There are laws that protect us from that sort of thing.” We are correct. There are. The companies that collect this sort of information are bound by “terms and conditions.” Ever read one of those cover to cover? Not me. I’m sure they’re harmless, right? We trust a 25-year-old billionaire to make the correct moral choice, don’t we?
It’s called harvesting, and it’s not only legal, but a valuable commodity. Companies gather your intimate details and then use them to sell you everything from Cheerios to hemorrhoid cream. If you don’t believe it, send a message using Gmail to anyone and mention either of those terms. Hey, don’t get mad. You agreed to it.
· Your personal causes
· What you believe in
· What you drink
· What you eat
· Photos of your children’s birthday parties
· The school your child attends
· Photos of your child’s school
· Where you were last Saturday night and who you were with
· What you wore at last year’s Halloween party
· Videos of you, your friends, your family, and your baby’s first steps.
Of course, there are the things you didn’t agree to. Just a few days ago, the Wall Street journal reported that Google was caught circumventing the security standards for Apple’s Safari browser. Before that, Twitter admitted to harvesting users' address books.
And there’s a reason that identity theft is on the rise. Where does that information come from? Door #1: hacking. Read the list above. Then think about all of the security questions you’re asked by your favorite financial institution. You’ll likely find some definite similarities.
On the bright side, I don’t think it will go on forever. There WILL be a backlash. It may require an enormous breach of privacy by a government agency or well-known Internet company. But it will happen. At this rate, something’s gotta give. Maybe government will finally catch up with technology and make some laws to protect us from ourselves. Or maybe we'll decide we have better things to do.
· Where you’ve been today
· Every email you’ve ever sent
· Every digital picture you’ve ever taken
· Where you are right this minute
Always remember: Privacy wasn’t taken from us. We gave it away. And we can take it back, one post at a time. So maybe nobody really cares about your personal information.
But shouldn’t you?
Brett Moneta has been playing in the digital world since 1996. He’s worked for companies like AOL, Avenue A | Razorfish, and Omnicom, developing content strategy and consulting on usability for companies in IT, consumer electronics, retail, healthcare, energy, and more. You can follow his tweets and read his blog too. Find him online here.