In recent years, we can all agree that the one thing people seem to be banging on about on the internet is "Privacy" in it's many forms. Not a week goes by when some group or organisation admits that it's had an oopsie with tens of thousands (if not millions) of it's users data, or someone has snuck in and helped themselves to said-information.

All the social networks - past and present - have been involved in various privacy/hacking/exposed data issues over the years, and people have constantly stomped, shouted and stamped to get tighter controls on privacy, but...

If you're using a Social Network - be it your Facebook, MySpaz, Twitter - or if you own a Smartphone where your data is stored on the Cloud, if you use the internet to buy or sell "things", or if you're on forums or whatever... Surely you should realise that everything you do somewhere, somehow, is tracked?

I had someone message me on Twitter the other day, telling me I should be worried that people can see where I am tweeting from. I had just dropped the kids off at their mums and was twittering away merrily when the message arrived. Yes, I do use location on my tweets, but the bigger questions here is: So? Does it really affect me that people know my tweet three minutes ago came from the High Street?

Same goes for my blog posts - invariably, if I am posting, I am sat on the sofa at my house, and every now and then, Blogger decides to insert my location under the posts. Granted, it doesn't give my address, but it either slaps in my postcode, or it puts "32-58 Long Riding" which is the street I live on, and my band of houses.

If people really wanted to find my address, there are easier ways. First off, people know where I live thanks to the descriptions I give in my posts: Blood Red House of Death across the road, for example. Secondly, I own web domains - including - so a simple WhoIs enquiry will show you my name, address and phone number.

There are people on Facebook that jump up and down screaming that Facebook put a cookie on their computer so they know what sites they've been on, but you're on THE INTERNET - cookies are A) nothing new, and B) most companies use them. If you have the right software, you can see what cookies you have on your computer, and generally, there will be LOTS on there. ALL shopping sites use them. Marketing sites. Survey sites. MySpace used them - in fact, MySpace was AWFUL for giving peoples personal info away, yet it never ever made the headlines. Google track their users too - searches are logged on their servers, pages they visit, files downloaded - and that is on both your computer AND your android device. Earlier this year, Apple got smacked wrists after a couple of blokes discovered that everywhere you go is mapped by your iPhone and stored online. Blackberry users are quite happy using their BBM system, but most of you don't realise every chat, every file shared - it's all logged and saved on RIMs servers...

My point is this - if you want TRUE privacy, then you shouldn't be on the internet, and you shouldn't own a smartphone. Everything you have ever done, the sites you have been on, the things you have bought, the files you have downloaded - they are all logged somewhere.

How many of you - honestly - have ever read through the License Agreement of any bit of software you've ever installed? Granted, it's always long-winded and tedious, but by clicking accept without reading, you're basically saying allowing that bit of software to do whatever they makers have set it to do. If they put a clause in there stating that they can harvest your contact details daily, and you click accept - the onus is on YOU, not them, to have made up your mind that you do or do not want your data shared.

Then, we have things like Facebook, that often change how they work, how they store or share your data... Now, for several years, everyone has KNOWN that Facebook change their privacy settings at the drop of a hat. Everyone KNOWS that they may or may not use your data for whatever they want... Yet when it hits the news that they've done This, That or The Other, people jump up and down and scream and shout about their privacy being breached. The same goes for some smartphones, or photo storage sites or whatever... Things are changed, or weaknesses are discovered and exploited.

Let's put it another way. There's a Storage Company near you. Everyone you know keeps their Important Things in there, and because everyone else does, you do too. Every few months, the storage company changes how they operate, and the Important Things you have stored are visible to everyone, regardless of you wanting them to see them or not. Also, every few months, you hear about a break-in and lots of people having their Important Things taken. The company respond by saying "This is how it is, end of subject"

You wouldn't keep your things in there, would you? Granted, you would expect things to be safe, but you need to take into account the fact that there are people out there that would quite happily root through your stuff and take/publish things that are private.

A while ago, I found a post detailing how to access ANYONES Facebook page. It was a bit technical, and involved hiding where you were, setting up dummy email accounts and everything else, but the fact is, people would have taken this information and used it to access the Facebook page of anyone it wants. Compromising pictures on FB?

A while back, I made a similar post about Privacy, when it occurred to me how easy it is for someone - with a bit of time and effort - to take little bits of info about you and build a complete profile of someone, with enough data to attempt accessing things like PayPal, your Bank Account or similar sensitive pages.

As bloggers, we often get the random questions (Tagged!) circulating around, with many many mundane questions. But if you were to collate several of these questionnaires, you would see that you are giving away information that function as Security Questions. Mothers Maiden Name, Street You Grew Up On, First School, Best Friends Name, Name of First Pet - these have all popped up as security questions for me over the recent months and years...

My point is, while you might expect privacy on the internet, or on your phone, or through your email, the fact is you leave a trail where ever you go, one that can be picked up by anyone - good or bad - and used for whatever purposes. While you can expect the things you do and say to be hidden, keep in mind that this is the internet, and that even the computer you are using is flawed. Chances are, you're on a PC, and that means there's a good bet you're on Windows. Microsoft release patches every week to fix holes and vulnerabilities on the machine you are using. If someone wants to access your machine, and has the knowledge to do so, they will.

Before you jump up and down about wanting your internet life to be private, just remember:  It's Not.

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One Response to “Privacy?”

Anonymous said...

Great post.
Talking of people tagging - I have tagged you ;O)