Saturday, January 22, 2011

Corporate Tracking and Privacy

 Ahh the internet and the paranoia it creates.  Let me explain this so the "Big Brother" fearing individuals will understand.  The internet is Mordor, a dim, dark, volcanic landscape of fear.  Google, is The Eye Of Sauron, a sleepless entity that "sees all."  You, are Frodo Baggins, an innocent, helpless individual that ventures through Mordor regularly.  Alas, in this story Gandalf, Aragorn, and Sam are not around to save your ass!
I personally, don't care if companies track my online activities, and you shouldn't either.  Ad agencies have been doing this for years prior to internet.  The only difference now is the information is transferred faster.
  • Web browsing activity is tracked by use of "cookies," "beacons" and "Flash cookies," small computer files or software programs installed on a user's computer by the Web pages that are visited. Some are useful. But a subset ("third party" cookies and beacons) are used by companies to track users from site to site and build a database of their online activities.  
If you are one that peeks out the window every time a car drives by, follow this tutorial How to Avoid the Prying Eyes.  Before the internet you could "throw away" those pesky survey's asking, "what is your favorite soft drink, magazine, laundry detergent."   Please Google, use my searches and information to cater specifically to my preferences.  This isn't "Big Brother," it's avoiding useless information. I would love to browse the internet with ads for P90X, Call Of Duty, and Godsmack sprayed in my face.  This would save me less work in searching for them!  It's not an invasion of privacy, because the internet isn't private! 
  • The information that companies gather is anonymous, in the sense that Internet users are identified by a number assigned to their computer, not by a specific person's name. Lotame, for instance, says it doesn't know the name of users such as Ms. Hayes-Beaty—only their behavior and attributes, identified by code number. People who don't want to be tracked can remove themselves from Lotame's system. 
We are just a number?  Really, is this a new concept? No, prisoners are numbers, college students are numbers, internet users are numbers!  Everyone just needs to take a deep breath, and realize "cookies" are not illegal, and I prefer Trojan vs. Lifestyles.  That was a freebie, because apparently people pay big money for that information!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Second Blog Post: On Corporate Tracking and Privacy

Lots of good blog posts in this first round!

For your second round, due by Wednesday, January 26th, address the following question:

This week, you read quite a bit about how companies track your activity online - your search terms, your "likes," your ad-clicks - as a way of creating very targeted advertising. Do you agree with this practice? Is it an invasion of privacy, even if your name isn't directly linked to your online activity? Or do you think this information is fair game?

Consider, in particular, that the internet services you use for "free" are largely financed through advertising, and that you probably prefer ads that are most relevant to you. Is it worth it to have your online activity used in this way, or are these companies getting to close to becoming a kind of "Big Brother"?

Privacy on the Internet

I am on both sides of Eric Schmidt's statement of, "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place."  

The side of me that contradicts thinks that it's not write at all because a person could be developing a new product and needs to keep it secret so that no one can steal your idea. Then there is the people that could be doing something illegal which makes his statement true.

I then look at the statement and think it can be related more to the internet by having it say, "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you should't post it on the internet." In my eyes that seems to make more sense related to today's society. Social networking has become such a big part of us today that employers will look at Facebook when doing interviews of potential employees. This is why you should make sure to watch the types of things you are posting and keep your profile private from others to prevent any career problems cause of it.

I think that there is not much of a difference between secret and private because you will find the words interchanged with each other everyday. You say that your information is private but isn't that just keeping it a secret from others? I noticed that one other post shows definitions of both and mentions that they have almost the same meaning. To me this is very true because they are used to mean the same thing but just written a little differently like my example above.

I think with todays internet and technology today it is safe to say if you want to keep your private life private, don't post it all over the internet for everyone to see.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Clike "LIKE" if you want privacy on the internet.

Can you life be private anymore? The answer is no. Between computers and cell phones you’re never far away from the Internet, which is the worlds water cooler. Privacy can be defined as many things. From someone watching you in your house to someone following you on twitter. Google CEO Eric Schmidt has said, "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place." That’s true, whether you know it or not you are being watched. Ever wonders how the ads on you computer pop up? How they are talking about things you may like? It’s because the sites you go to are tracking you interests then displaying ads per those interests. If you put on your facebook your single on the side ads all sorts of online dating sites are shown, that’s how Mark made his millions on his “free” site.

When you use your computer you have this thing called an IP address, it’s like your social security number. It can be traced back to you instantly. So even if you aren’t using any social media sites advertisers can still find out what you like by the sites you visit. Every social media website is making it easier to allow other people to watch and follow your every move. Let’s say you post something of Facebook you have to go down to a little drop box and select who can see it, but during that time it’s up on the internet for anyone to see, or if your like my mom you don’t even know the option is there.

I have a Google Android phone and they allow applications to be put onto your device. The Android Market has thousand of apps that you can choose from, however some may be more than you bargain for. When you go to download an app Google let’s you know what the app needs control of. For example, Facebook syncing with you contacts. But let’s say you get a calculator app, under the “what it does” it shows it needs to read call state/identity, meaning the calculator app wants to know who is calling and who you are calling, I don’t think a calculator needs to know that.

In this digital era is it possible to gain privacy? I don’t think so.

On privacy

"If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place,"  was said by the CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt. I believe this statement is true.  First off, if something is so terrible or humiliating that someone doesn't want other people to find out about, one would assume that that person would not partake in that activity. Second, if a person doesn't want anyone to know about their past times why would they be uploading it to the Internet in the first place. The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks sharing information. The keyword in the previous sentence is "sharing." Anyone is able to look at anything that is posted to a website, no matter how "secure" it may be. 

"Once information becomes part of a public record, there is no privacy invasion in future releases of the information..." (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). The definition of privacy states that it is the quality of being secluded from view of others. Where as the definition of secrecy states that it is the practice of hiding information form certain individuals. When comparing the definitions of privacy and secrecy, we can conclude that privacy is born from secrecy.  If a person practices hiding information, then in turn the information has the quality of being secluded from others.  Having the "quality of" is very different than "practicing".  Therefore, I believe secrecy and privacy are different, but there exists a cause and effect relationship between them. 

In my opinion, each user is responsible for the information they share on the web.  Simply put, if a user does not want specific information on the Internet, they should not share it.


     If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, DON'T POST IT ON FACEBOOK.
     I disagree with Eric Schmidt's statement completely. I feel that everyone is allowed to do whatever they want, as long as it's legal. If they want to keep that "private" then they should make sure it doesn't end up on Facebook, Twitter or any other online social media. I understand that with the evolution of technology it's difficult to get away with doing something stupid or embarrassing without someone recording it on a video phone or snapping a picture. However, that's where responsibility and trust come into play. Don't get wasted and run around in an animal costume in a large crowd - that's bound to end up on the internet! Do that in the "privacy" of your home, or in a group of people that you trust won't display your interesting behavior online.
     I feel like there is a difference between private and secret. A secret is something you don't want ANYONE to know - it's typically something you're embarrassed of, or that you're afraid to reveal because it could be detrimental to your health, safety, job, etc. Private is when you just keep to yourself - when your every move isn't tracked and put on TMZ. Private is being mindful of how much information you share and who you share it with. 
     Do what you want to do - just be careful where you post it, because you never know who might see it.

Privacy and "The Whiney Celebrity"

To better understand Mr. Schmidt's argument on personal data and privacy I would like to focus on another figure of modern society, "The Whiney Celebrity". Found, typically, ranting and raving about the paparazzi on VH1 or "telling all" in some book scattered about the bargain table. Their words have possibly even graced the pages of a magazine or two, hoping to "set the record straight" about whom they really "are".

The medium and genre will always differ but the story of "The Whiney Celebrity" will always be the same; came from nothing, became famous quick, did something or said something stupid (repeatedly), apologized profusely citing the "just a human" excuse. The public's reaction? It differs case-by-case but can usually be boiled down to "you wanted to be rich and famous, deal with it".

Essentially, this is what Mr. Schmidt and his colleagues (e.g. Mark Zuckerberg) are telling us. Want to use their services? Then you are exposing your words and your actions to the world. If you are worried about what the world will think then either change your behavior or don't participate. This is not a novel concept. People have always navigated society according to rules and norms. Only our immediate society has now grown in size and complexity. And that has us concerned for our privacy.

Privacy & The Internet

"If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place." –Eric Schmidt

This statement seems false in some aspects. There are certain obligations on the Internet that we must put in private information in order to receive the benefits of the service. Although we may not want to put in the information, it is required. For example, social security numbers, bank account and passwords are all obligations that we must put in the Internet database. Although someone ‘is always watching’,even though it may be a secure cite, people never know who has access to it.

I do not believe that this ISP system is an effective method to combating piracy nor is it proper. I feel this way for several reasons. The Internet is a public place where people share documents, information, videos, pictures and much more private information. Although privacy on the Internet may seem hypocritical, it is our right to pick and choose what information we do put on the Internet and what we do not. We should be allowed enough privacy to keep us safe. If monitoring or tracking specific documents that may pose a threat to others or help others find information, the government should do it, if there is firm evidence of activity. If there is no firm evidence of piracy or criminal acts of some sort, there is no need for monitoring and privacy invasion should be omitted.

If our anonymity was taken away almost completely, the obligation of Internet ID cards would be almost ineffective. There is a reason as to why people are picky about what they put on the Internet. They do this to avoid stalkers, and also thieves who break into bank accounts and steal personal information. These Internet ID cards would make it easier for these types of people to track down the exact location of people and bigger problems could occur, because we do not know who has acces to these cites, even if they belong to the Government.

Overall, privacy to some degree should be monitored. Yet certain accounts, such as facebook, can be set as public or private, the reality is that it is always public and depending on the information that it contains, could have serious consequences. Privacy control is an issue on the internet that will always be there, and it is only up to you as to what information you do not want to be seen, not because it is secret but because of the potential consequences that may occur.

This website gives information on privacy of the internet and what to do to protect yourself and your computer from potential harm.

Privacy and Secrecy on the Internet: "None of Your Business!"

Google CEO Eric Schmidt has been quoted as saying, "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place." I don't think this is true in the least. When privacy on the internet is discussed, there's numerous topics that jump into people's mind, such as pornographic content, software/media piracy, and Googling things such as "how to get away with a murder" or "how to make a bomb". However, people need to examine more than the obvious/illegal/extreme reasons for wanting to keep something private.

First of all, we need to realize that Google has every right to collect our information, like it or not. Because of this, we have to use our best judgement when deciding what to use Google for and what not to use it for. According to Google terms of service (, "Essentially, Google is saying they have some rights to anything you submit to them. While complicated to understand, here is where this comes into play: for Senior Design, we are designing an online Flash game. However, we needed a place for our group to store some shared documents and code so that we could all work on it. We realized that GoogleDocs was NOT the place for this because we don't want them to have access to any of our source code.

Not only does Google collect our information, but many Internet Service Providers (ISPs) also do this too. According to an article in the book Readings in Cyberethics by Richard Spinello, ISP information collection is becoming an important tool for fighting against piracy. Record companies are realizing that it is horribly cost inefficient to sue individuals who have pirated (be it uploaded or downloaded) copyrighted music. Instead, they are bringing ISPs into play. Not all ISPs have jumped on board with the record companies, but the ones that have use roughly the following formula:

1. If the information gathered from a subscribers internet usage shows that they are pirating material, they will be monitored.
2. Should the act continue, they will receive a cease and desist letter.
3. Should the act continue still, their internet will be disabled.

While this may be an effective method to combat piracy, is it proper? How much privacy should we have on the net? What if our anonymity was taken away almost completely, such as mandatory internet ID cards:


On the subject of privacy, I completely agree with Google CEO Eric Schmidt when he says “If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place.” According to an essay published in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “The term 'privacy' is used frequently in ordinary language as well as in philosophical, political and legal discussions, yet there is no single definition or analysis or meaning of the term.” Even on the website, the term “privacy” is defined by using the word private, creating a circular definition that really doesn't describe the true meaning of the word.

In my opinion, the public perception of privacy is that it is freedom from interference and intrusion by others. People often make the mistake of thinking that they are entitled to 100% privacy, no matter what they do. Looking back to childhood, everyone has a story where telling secrets on the playground typically became a disastrous mistake by recess as that one trustworthy person told two people, those two told two more, and so on. This is the case in adulthood as well, especially with social media sites such as Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, and photo sites such as Flickr and Photobucket. Individuals post their entire lives on these websites, in some cases expecting them to stay private or limited to a select number of individuals they allow to see their pages. However, upon revealing themselves on the internet, people fail to realize that the information is there forever, often archived even though a post or photo may be deleted.

Danah Boyd at the keynote speech at SXSW states “Fundamentally, privacy is about having control over how information flows. It's about being able to understand the social setting in order to behave appropriately. To do so, people must trust their interpretation of the context, including the people in the room and the architecture that defines the setting. When they feel as though control has been taken away from them or when they lack the control they need to do the right thing, they scream privacy foul.” Boyd goes on to dispute the statement by Schmidt, referencing the failure and public outcry against Google Buzz. Indeed, Google's handling of Buzz was a mistake. The company should have made the service “opt-in” as opposed to sharing public data before users knew what was going on and allowing them to “opt-out.” While Boyd brings up several valid points, many of which I agree with, the onus is ultimately on the public to be educate themselves on what privacy is and how to protect themselves. With the speed of social media, camera (super) phones, and related technologies, keeping things under covers is a thing of the past. Based on those facts, it is completely reasonable for Eric Schmidt to make a statement like that and even represents a commonsensical public service announcement for those who expect otherwise.

Protect Your Privacy

"By giving people the power to share, we're making the world more transparent"
- Mark Zuckerberg, Founder of Facebook

Within the past decade, the use of the Internet and more specifically, social networking sites, has increased rapidly. In the United States, the internet is readily available and used for multiple purposes. Whether you use the Internet for business, school or personal purposes, you are providing information that can be publicly viewed. The Internet can be very resourceful, however, its users need to be aware of what information they provide and what information will be publicly shared.

In "Making Sense of Privacy and Publicity", Danah Boyd argues:
"There are good reasons to engage in public; there always have been. But wanting to be in public doesn't mean wanting to lose control". I strongly agree with this statement. Engaging in public via the Internet can offer many benefits, such as reconnecting with an old friend, maintaining business relationships, or working with other students from class. However, this does not mean that users want to lose control of their privacy and what information can be made public.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt once said "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place". I firmly believe that privacy controls should not be removed, and users should have the ability to control what information is publicly displayed. However, I also believe that all users should be aware of what they are posting on the Internet. I would encourage others not to accept the default settings on social media sites, such as Facebook, and instead, take the time to read through them and take control of your privacy.

In order to maintain privacy, users need to be aware of how to change settings to satisfy individual expectations. To maintain privacy on Facebook, become familiar with "10 Privacy Settings Every Facebook User Should Know".

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy recognizes that privacy is in danger as technology continues to grow at a rapid speed. Information that you input online can be visible to potential employers, school admissions, complete strangers, etc. Privacy is important, and in order to maintain it, individuals need to take additional measures to protect what information can be publicly displayed.

"More Public" Thieves & Investigators

The idea presented by the article "Privacy," that once information comes part of a public record it can be reproduced and distributed, is entirely bogus. This first struck me when I read a Facebook post from a friend saying to visit this site and remove yourself. She said they had her salary, house, age, phone number, email, and info about all her kids. This got me thinking then and is a perfect illustration for this topic now.

The idea that public information is public is entirely correct. For the documented past, men have made their careers as private investigators. They would look at all the public files, follow the person and hear the ‘public’ conversations that Danah Boyd speaks of, and interview others about this person. This is the same information that we are concerned about now, it was just not as easy to access then.

The difference between then and now, as Vaneevar Bush put it, is technological devices. Although computers never took the form of desks, he was correct that computers can, with no ‘creative aspect,’ compile and process lots of data. The data that would have at one time difficult to gather is now widely available in central, searchable databases. Also, computers cannot be controlled. If the data makes it out, it can quickly be stored in many of millions of places. You cannot destroy records at will.

The bogus theory that these websites are only putting together the info already publically available should be challenged swiftly. It is absolutely wrong to remove the PII from its context of a funny comment or housing plan and use it for an unintended meaning. This is theft.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

privacy vs. secrecy

pri·vate \ˈprī-vət\ a : intended for or restricted to the use of a particular person, group, or class b : belonging to or concerning an individual person, company, or interest

se·cret \ˈsē-krət\ a : kept from knowledge or view : hidden b : marked by the habit of discretion

At first glance, the difference between something secret and something private seems minimal. It seems that if something is secret then by its very nature it has to be private. The opposite also seems true, but seeming and being are quite different. Both words do denote a certain control over information. Private information is something that we generally have control over and belongs to us, it is information we can choose whether we want to disclose or not. Secret information, however, does not necessarily belong to one the one who bears it, but its nondisclosure is dependent on a contract made between parties.

So, how does this apply to the Internet?

One must realize that this contract made with secrets is not ever made with the Internet. When we feed the Internet our information, in a way, it no longer belongs to us and we have no control over it. Because there is no contract made, it renders the idea of secrecy null, and because the only thing shielding our information are weak ‘privacy settings,’ the Internet knows no true privacy. Diving into the web thinking this way will probably save many a lot of grief. Eric Schmidt’s quote, when applied to this idea and the Internet, in some ways is a wise one because it promotes a certain discretion that many lack while on the web. On the other hand, when you apply the same quote to everyday life, it is a naïve sentiment.

The Subjective Nature of Privacy

"It's ironic to try to post something "secret" on Facebook, because everyone knows about it."            - Anonymous 

I think that Eric Schmidt's statement regarding private behaviors is one that can't be applied to all situations, as was pointed out in the "bathroom" example given to us by our professor.  However, I do think that his statement can be applied to certain situations that regard immoral, unsavory, or illegal behavior; such as using the Internet for looking at pornographic material, gambling and drug addictions, or cheating on a spouse.  All of these scenarios represent behaviors that most people would probably agree as being matters that those who commit them would wish to keep secret from others.  In this respect, I feel Schmidt's comment is accurate, if you don't want people to know what you are doing, you probably shouldn't be doing them. 

So therein lies the question: when do secret matters become private ones? and should private matters be kept secret? I believe that these questions can be better illustrated by an example. Take the last People Magazine that you perused through or even glanced at while grocery shopping.  How many front page stories were about the marital infidelities of random celebrities? Or informed us of which celebrity just went to rehab for the 13th time? Most of us would agree that these stories are regarding clearly private matters, but they certainly aren't being kept secret. I believe that this represents that there is, in fact, a difference between secret and private because sometimes, private matters can be kept secret and other times they are front page news.

The advent of the Internet has altered the existing societal ideals of privacy and secrecy, however. The ease and speed with which the web has enabled us to gather and post information on almost every topic imaginable, including ourselves, has resulted in many scholarly discussions (and disagreements) about where to draw the line in privacy issues. Dana Boyd wrote in her speech Privacy and Publicity, that "Fundamentally, privacy is about having control over how information flows."  On many Internet sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, even those who have control over the flow of information are those that subscribe to their Facebook accounts and post and tweet daily.  Who then should be able to step in and say what should be private and what should be public information? Mark Zuckerberg and his Default privacy settings, the FCC or the millions of subscribers worldwide? In the "real world" privacy matters are upheld by our court systems and laws, but online there is no "court" aside that of our peers.

John Perry Barlow describes the Internet as a "civilization of the mind."  This ultimately implies the subjective nature of its content.  In this respect I believe that people should be allowed to chose for themselves what should be private and/or public without being automatically "opted-in" to someone else's prescribed ideals.  Let the people choose and live with the consequences of their choices.

On Privacy Response

I think that Mr. Schmidt’s quote is a very self serving one, especially since he is in the information business. The same view is shared by the people who think that the police should be allowed to search people without warrants. Their logic, the same as Mr. Schmidt’s, if you have nothing to hide it shouldn’t be a problem. I have certain rights, one those is the right to privacy, regardless of the reason.
As far as the loosening of privacy controls, our reading assignment tells us that the future will belong to the companies who can compile massive data bases with the help of user input. Which puts us all at a disadvantage as companies will require us to part with more and more of our personal information in the future. When you sit back and think of it, how much of your life is already on Face Book for all to read, and how many times has Face Book changed their information sharing policy over the last few years revealing more and more about us.
Some of the privacy issues can be directed at large companies, but a lot of the issues can be traced back to the individual user. How many of us unwittingly tell the world where we live, where we work, when we go on vacation, who our friends and family are, and how to find us. If someone wanted to rob you or do worse most of us could easily be tracked down.
There are certainly external issues that need to be watched, but we also have to take into account our own actions and what we can do to prevent too much information being left out there.

Private Follies

Privacy issues on the web are abundant; from credit card numbers to personal information to social security numbers, these issues are something to be concerned with. However, I believe that a lot of our privacy problems on the web are our own fault. When it comes to websites most people don't read any of the legal documents that they must agree to when registering for that site or its services; legal documents that pertain to many privacy issues that people might have. Another problem is privacy options that are provided by the website. Last year Facebook received a lot of criticism for making default privacy settings for users basically non-existent. They did not, however, remove those privacy options.

Regarding Eric Schmidt's statement about not doing what we don't want anyone to know, that's just silly. There are many instances that someone could think of that they might not want others to know about. I'm sure most people wouldn't want to have a colonoscopy performed in front of a large crowd of people. Regarding less socially acceptable practices on the Internet such as pornography, I believe that what's done in the privacy of your home is your own business until it becomes a public health issue (a meth lab spreading fumes to other rooms in an apartment building, for an extreme example).

Privacy Controls

I am torn on how I feel about CEO Eric Schmidt's statement. On one hand, my personal adult hand, I feel that my privacy should be kept private. However, on the other, my mother hand, I feel that my children may be somewhat more protected from predators whose privacy is not protected.
Personally, when I think of where I would like my privacy protected I think of online banking, credit cards, and bill payment. I do not feel those should be public at all. However, online sights such as facebook, twitter, etc. I feel unsure if any or how much should be public. If these sights were to become public then, yes it may be easier to identify and turn in predators. However, the majority of predators would be informed of the change and find a new avenue of approach. Not to mention, now all or some of my children's information would now be public to view.
It is a tough call. I think that the thought was with good intention but the action may give adverse results. People, myself included, also begin to feel with the loosening of privacy controls we as a society are losing more and more of our freedoms. To have someone, anyone, tell you what is allowed to kept private and what is not, is a personal violation. I fear what is next? If the government is allowed to remove your privacy on the web, then where will they focus next?

Privacy in the Digital Frontier

My whole take on the loosening of privacy controls and more open displays of information on the web is that if one is uncomfortable with the information being presented, then don't give that information out to others. Once you decide that you are willingly going to share something with another individual, business, website, third party, or whatever, it is your responsibility to realize that that information is no longer in your control and is no longer "private". For sites such as facebook, there is a very long EULA which I'm sure nobody reads, that spells out everything, including how they handle your personal data (they do a lot with it!), and by simply using their service you are agreeing to let them do as they please just as it is spelled out.

The internet itself is dreamed of and often described as a place of limitless and unrestricted access to information, yet so many people believe they have a right to privacy when entering into this domain. Nobody is forcing us to use the internet, make blog posts, check facebook, and post on our favorite websites. Yet we do anyway because it is an enjoyable pastime. The idea of facebook itself is one of you (the user) having special access to other users' personal information, ideas, photographs, and so on in the form of them being called your "friends". The act of using facebook is one of willingly and knowingly invading the privacy of others that many fight to protect, though they too engage in these kinds of behaviors. I know hypocrisy doesn't make an argument invalid, but I feel that so many people ignore the benefits they reap from accessing others' information as well.

What it all comes down to is this: if you don't want your information out there, don't put it out there. If you want to remain as "private" as possible, then stay off the internet and keep out of others' private matters as well. If you just can't keep yourself offline, then keep a tight lid on what you say and who you say it to, or throw some money down and use the services of Reputation Defender. They'll be more than happy to help for a fee of course.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Play Your Cards Right

"If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place."

What an interesting quote. It’s sort of like those sayings, what came first chicken or the egg?

I don’t know if I agree or disagree.

The Internet is definitely not a private place. If you are going to put something online, there is like a default disclaimer you should be aware of - all things are public, post at your own risk. But then you wonder about banking and credit card websites and bill pay online, right? How private is that? It probably isn’t that private but those companies build up their repuations and boost up their security to prove to us they are secure through certifications and spam control and such.

Webster’s dictionary defines private as something intended for or restricted to the use of a particular person, group, or class. Secret is defined as something kept from knowledge or view. Both are intangible and both essentially mean the same thing but technically they don’t. A secret is usually between two people and privacy can be a general place or group or something in that manner.

The internet is no place for secrets. There is some privacy within security options on websites, like social networking sites, you can block certain things. However, once a picture, or a status, or whatever it may be, has been uploaded on the website, it is also roaming/streaming around the world wide web.

The timeline that was posted showed how we basically went from government watchdogs invading our homes to check for proper MORAL conduct, to a law that allows wiretapping in which government or whomever can listen in on anything and everything we are saying or doing. That is just scary, its not about morals anymore, it's about who knows what first, no matter how dirty you got to get to get the information.

The owner of Facebook, Mark Zuckerburg, for instance, everytime there is an update to facebook, the update includes privacy control and basically he wants everything and everyone to put all their information out there, no secrets. To show the world the truths that lay underneath it all. That nothing is really private, allow people to join in. I feel his concept is to make or put all people on the same level of exposure.

So, in other words, how do you feel about some of the loosening of privacy controls and more open displays of what were once considered private behaviors on the web?

I will say that I am not surprised. As our generations grow, there are more and more things that are becoming translucent. We want everything clearly spelled out for us, we don’t want complications. And with those wants comes many other consequences that we have to deal with.

I feel the loosening of the privacy controls and open displays of material once considered private is not a bad thing, because I am one of those people that do not want to be blindsided. I already know that nothing is private anymore, and I feel as long as our personal morals are straight and we are fully aware of the consequence or repercussions of our actions, I don’t see a problem with the loosening of anything. Let people do what they want, I mean, they are going to anyway.

I will leave you with a few sentences from two of our readings that I feel says a lot and goes along with how I feel with all this.

Most generalizably, youth focus on all that they have to gain when entering into public spaces while adults are thinking about all that they have to lose. Part of the challenge in this is figuring out where someone's at and what their expectations are.”

––––– Danah Boyd

“Ours is a world that is both everywhere and nowhere, but it is not where bodies live…We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity.”

–––– Davos, Switzerland

So basically, the choice is yours. You decide and define what you call and want private or to remain secret. I don't believe people join networks and post scandalous material without knowing what they are doing. it's all a game. Play your cards right. or wrong. what's your motive?

Week 1: Online Privacy Rights

Google CEO Eric Schmidt's comments about online privacy are disturbing. After reading through the assigned articles, a couple of key points popped into my mind. In Vannevar Bush's "As We May Think," Bush states that the human race needs to keep records of important discoveries and thoughts for future generations to benefit from. He also discusses the problem of finding those records out of the mass of other records. In order to keep and retrieve records on the internet today we need intelligent search engines. To sort and organize the results, it is necessary to gather as much relevant information about the subjects in the records.

A problem arises when an author of a record only intends for a certain audience to retrieve that record in the future. Search engines (such as Google) are designed to grab as much as possible about a subject so that the user can quickly make judgements about that subject, sometimes without even clicking on a link. For example, if someone has been charged with a crime but not convicted (not found guilty), shouldn't Google's results display that the person isn't guilty? Often it wont, potential employers might see that the person has had legal problems and immediately dismiss them as a potential employee.

Another problem with maintaining privacy (while using the internet) is that information is often sent through a maze of different companies that, unlike
ARPANET, can harvest that information for their own interests without the public's knowledge or permission. Encryption has helped keep email, passwords, and financial information more secure. However, there is always someone out there with the means to defeat the encryption. Whether that's a government, business, or individual, the internet is certainly (unfortunately) not a place to communicate private matters with the expectation of totally secure transmissions.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Privacy and transparency go hand in hand

Eric Schmidt's claim that "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place" demonstrates not only an ignorance toward privacy issues on the internet, but also a flippant insensitivity that's disappointing as CEO of a company who believes that you should "focus on the user and all else will follow" (not to mention their informal corporate slogan, "don't be evil"). In a speech addressing the current state of privacy on the internet, Danah Boyd implored parents to approach their children with an understanding attitude about the dangers of social media, creating a dialog rather than banning these potentially useful tools outright. Schmidt comes across as the reactionary parent who permits their child to use social media on the condition that they never make a mistake. But as Boyd also outlines, privacy issues like the need to hide one's location from an abusive father aren't simple issues of choice. Schmidt refers to things we don't want "anyone" to know, but privacy is more often an issue of controlling who can and cannot gain access to the various elements of our lives. As various writers have suggested, privacy is a manifold idea that encompasses issues like self esteem, physical protection, and the ability to uphold relationships. While it's an ever-shifting term that few can agree on, and who some insist is a useless front-end term for various other rights, it's rarely the case that people want to make their actions entirely private or entirely public. Privacy is not, as Boyd says, a binary value.

Government intrusion isn't the only threat to privacy these days. The architecture of the internet has a huge effect. Web 2.0, as defined by O'Reilly, includes the concept of the "perpetual beta." This means the prevalence of sites that are constantly evolving and improving with user feedback. Privacy is also a shifting and dynamic idea that (according to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy) may even depend on concepts as tenuous as culture. These sites are better equipped to handle privacy settings in a way that accommodates changing individualized needs. And since the sites that listen to their users tend to be the most successful, we can be assured more privacy. Yet the stakes are higher than ever, as these Web 2.0 sites also rely on crowd sourcing and leveraging their user base to expand. This means users are giving away more data, and the competition for that data is getting fiercer. Some have emphatically stated the need to keep external bodies like government out of our internet, but I think internal sources - the companies keeping our data - should be of equal concern. The problem is largely an issue of transparency. Many users are deeply unaware of what's done with their data once it gets entered. Controls may be overcomplicated, leading to mistakes. Sites like YourOpenBook expose data that people may not know is public (try typing in "my social security number is" for a fun surprise).

With so much of our data out there, things can get confusing.

It's an exciting time for communication, and there's no doubt that sharing our information through the internet has enhanced our lives in some ways. Josh Harris' prediction, as seen in the 2009 documentary We Live in Public, was that people's craving for exposure and recognition would lead to an online information society where the key mode of validation is the most page hits or friend requests. His experiments are fascinating, but he fails in his extremity to realize that even exhibitionists control their image to some degree, and our public version of ourselves is often a different and more finely tuned one than our private version. I think nearly everyone behaves differently in different groups, even among the closest of friends; I would argue everyone has many versions of themselves, each of which has been carefully refined to match the interests of who they are interacting with. Being genuine doesn't mean acting the same around everyone; adapting is human nature, and it's to our best advantage. This is the nature of privacy. This is also the nature of secrecy. Both describe the same intent, whether for malicious reasons or not. Regardless, there are so many benign reasons for privacy that we can't let its protection be outweighed by the need to expose people who are hiding malicious secrets. The stakes may not seem high now, but how long before people start managing really sensitive information - like their finances - on Facebook?

Overall, Vannevar Bush certainly predicted one of the chief uses of the internet in his 1945 piece As We May Think in saying: "man's spirit should be elevated if he can better review his shady past and analyze more completely and objectively his present problems." Yet it's that permanence of data (which, it turns out, is hard to get rid of) that makes it a danger for privacy. Something we may feel totally comfortable sharing with the world now could become embarrassing or threatening to our livelihood (such as the ability to get a job) later on. The original purpose of the internet as envisioned by the RAND corporation was to create a decentralized, rugged network that could survive even nuclear attack. The internet we know now certainly follows that principle, and our data too is getting spread around and made all the more permanent because there's no single point of removal should we want it removed. What we need moving forward is more transparency from corporations storing our data. We need to foster a corporate culture of communication and openness with users, allowing them control over what is done with their information. That's not enough, though. As evidenced by the Facebook privacy settings bait-and-switch described by Boyd, a lot of users have control over their privacy, but they're not aware of it. User education also needs to be a high priority task. We need to ask ourselves: how can we educate users better? How can we make data storage more transparent without inundating users with details? As services that use our information continue to expand, let's remember to keep a wary eye on the corporations that are managing it.

Privacy settings should not be diminished!

"If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place."

I totally disagree with the statement! We all have the right to do as we please. We have strived (or so we thought!) to have a society as free as possible in which we can conduct our private lives in the manner that best suits us. I should not be intimidated into not scratching by butt cheek in my house because I don’t want people to see me. Well, they can’t see me because my house life is private and nobody intrudes in it. Last time I checked…the Inquisition has been long gone with the Spanish empire.

While searching for definitions of privacy and secrecy certain concepts overlap the two. For instance, discreet, of one’s person, and confidential. Even Google definition uses privacy to describe secret ( describes Privacy as “the state of being unobserved” and Secrecy as “the act of keeping things hidden” ( The author states that the difference stems from the “act of choosing boundaries”, in the case of privacy, and “hiding from…disclosing something [potentially incriminating]”, in the case of secrecy ( Thus, while privacy is a way of preserving our boundaries from others for our well-being or comfort, secrecy is keeping things from other people because we fear retaliation.

The internet is far from being a “private” place but the little privacy we do have under our control should not be diminished. For example, I have the right to write a literary discharge against my employer on my blog and I also have the right to keep people from seeing it by keeping my profile private. Yet, I can’t control someone from my private group sharing this. Nonetheless, at least I should keep the ability to keep certain people or the general online public off my blog. The internet can be a place where careers, lives, marriages, etc. can be ruined. Thus, in my hypothetical example, I should understand the responsibility of bashing my employer and the repercussions if the material is leaked. But I should not be condemned to not having the ability to manipulate my privacy.