Just because you’re paranoid….

… doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you. Yeah, I always laughed at that too. But …

A couple of things I’ve run into on the web related to privacy: In a round-about way, I ran into a post titled How to Protect Yourself from the People Who Want to Find You. This does not refer to an article Slashdot referred to a couple of days ago, What the Web Knows About You (there’ll be an advert at the start; you may want to see the synopsis at Slashdot). The basic idea is that you’d be amazed how much can be found out about you, between what you put there yourself and what government agencies and companies have there.

It’s actually, well, unsettling, in a way. Especially if one has been on the Internet in some way for, say, 14 or 15 years now. It’s not that I’m worried that someone will discover, for example, that I think I’m a werewolf on a planet with three suns. No, my concerns are much more mundane than that. At the moment, I’m hoping that no one who shouldn’t know where I live cares to discover my street address or work address. But it’s clearly possible to do so.

Not meaning to incite panic. It just is, um, interesting.

About songdogmi

I'm a longhaired almost-hippie stuck in the inner suburbs of a major rust-belt metropolis who's thoughtful, creative, and kind of geeky. In exchange for a paycheck I run around in a cubicle maze most days. When I escape, I play music, hang out in coffee houses, dink around on the computer, take naps, and think I should be off in the woods somewhere. Every once in a while I get in my car and drive far, far away, though I've always come back so far.
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5 Responses to Just because you’re paranoid….

  1. Trinity

    There’s a trinity to the online security issue…

    1. there’s what the government can do/does do, take a look at the FBI Carnivore program http://www.howstuffworks.com/carnivore.htm

    2. there’s what the web allows us to find as individuals — phone numbers, bankruptcy info, addresses etc.

    3. there’s what companies do. Tracking cookies, for example. The information you give to Facebook, LiveJournal, Yahoo when we start accounts gets sold and used. Google and Yahoo, for example, track your surfing habits in order to better target advertising to you.

    Thanks for the link to my post.

    • songdogmi says:

      Re: Trinity

      You’re welcome — thank you for the update. I’ll have to check out the link to FBI Carnivore. (Funny, I like carnivores, in theory, but the idea of the government having a program named that is a bit unsettling.)

  2. altivo says:

    People often get all flustered about this, like they do about Google street views having a photo of their house. But it’s ridiculous. Anyone could have walked by your house any day and looked at it or taken a photo of it anyway. Your permission is not required, and it has happened thousands of times without your knowledge.

    Almost all the stuff that can be found about any individual through the internet was public information that could be found without the internet too. The only difference is that you used to have to go to a library or the county clerk or somewhere like that to find that same information. Speaking as one who has done a fair amount of genealogy, it’s really amazing how much we can find about just about anyone from ordinary public records, newspapers, etc.

    • The biggest difference is, just a few years ago, if I wanted to find you in the phone book I had to know the country, state and city you lived in and find a phone book that matched. The people who walked by your house were mostly, if not entirely, from your own neighbourhood.

      The information about your career path was protected by your general anonymity, but also by the general privacy policy of your company. A few years ago I couldn’t use your name to find your CV, now people are being told it’s a good idea to have their CV online.

      People’s diaries or their kids’ soccer schedule were probably not available to the public, neither were the photos people take of their kids.

      Even the county clerk option was difficult. First you have to know what to ask for, but even so you can’t pop into a county clerks office in Canaan, Vermont, and ask for information regarding a person who lives and owns property in Kamloops, British Columbia.

      There is very little available online that isn’t available offline, but people have to be aware that once it’s online it’s available to anyone and everyone — unless they take precautions.

      • songdogmi says:

        The thing that seems most different is that it’s so easy for anyone to exploit these bits of information that one doesn’t need a good reason to do so. We all know what people do on the Internet (e.g., hacking), and when asked why the main reason they give is that they were “bored.” If it’s easy for the bored, it’s easy for the truly malicious too.

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