INTERNET PRIVACY: CONVINCE ME THERE IS A PROBLEM
All the attention and dismay over Internet Privacy got me to thinking. I am at a loss for how this is news or why it is a “problem”. From everything I have read, this is an educational issue more than anything else. The fear mongering by the Media is really unnecessary.
I finally saw the movie Social Network. I know, me of all people, the earliest adopter of social media, just now saw the movie. Irony, right?
What struck me the most, was that I was pulled right back into the Internet Discordia of forums, bulletin boards and web journals. From 1998 through 2006, I was very active on the Internet, forums and bulletin boards, groups and web journals. My Blog in it’s current form is just the 2011 version of what I had built in 1998. Basically, the need for the forums and bulletin boards has been fulfilled with Facebook and the interoperability of all my favorite Portals, ie Twitter, Word Press, and iGoogle. Notice I did not say “replaced”. I have never forgotten that it is the same public forum, group or bulletin board on the Internet. I accept the fact that using the Internet means losing some privacy, that the applications I use collect information, but I am using the applications for free. The only exchange is of information, my device, my usage, and my data for the free application. Has the idea of shareware been forgotten in the cycles? I guess I matured on the Internet at a time when this understanding of sharing information to develop better faster cooler applications has been completely lost on the new generation of users on the Internet.
The privacy issue everyone is so worried about, that Congress is wasting time & money over, and the media both broadcast and internet, simply doesn’t fly with me. At all. When did Telecommunications become private? At what point did it become declared by proclamation that the Internet and Telecommunications was a specifically private or governmental space?
The two Twitter links above to 2 articles on the subject, are what got me to thinking about how the issue affects me, and how much I disagree with the Media’s fear mongering. For at least 17 years, maybe as long as 25, the Internet has been a reality in the American culture. This is not new, the issue has been discussed year after year, with a focus on some of the most obvious privacy violations imaginable. Since day one, it has been the Central Library of the Globe. Contributors get content uploaded to the Internet at a furious pace, connecting humanity to each other in a way never before imagined. Apparently, there is an entire generation of humanity who seemed to believe there were still “frontiers of privacy” on the Internet, under the false belief that there ever was the notion of privacy within Telecommunications, let alone the Web.
I have been watching in awe the Twitters and the Media feeds on the privacy issues. It’s like the side walk outside your Flat, the one with the beautiful tree who’s trunk has caused a crack in the pavement. The tree adapted to the city, the least you can do is accommodate the tree and accept the very obvious crack in the sidewalk. Then one day Chanel 7 news is on the street reporting of the imminent death and destruction caused by the tree and the monetary damage caused to the sidewalk, all the while providing the subtle undertone of fear and paranoia over the malicious attack the tree has made on the City’s Infrastructure. Why all of a sudden are we interested in a tree trunk on the sidewalk? It’s been there for 10 years or more, but suddenly it is a menace. I find myself wondering if the very social network which has brought us all together is now the subject of fear mongering over our infrastructure.
CELL PHONES, THE INTERNET AND THE SOCIAL NETWORK
Since 1994, I have carried a cell phone. By 2001, I had completely abandoned the “land line” or “home phone” and have carried only a cell phone. For a good part of my life, I was trained not to leave the house without a cell phone, and never get in a vehicle without one. If there is an emergency or you need help of any kind, it is a mere tower signal away. With the addition of Maps to the cell phone functionality, and the natural progression to GPS, the cell phone became even more important to me. At one point in time, my family network would use the Maps and GPS to “find” each other. In 1991, I drove from Florida to California by myself. Well, myself, my cat and her 3 kittens. I used truck stops to check in with my family, give them my map location and estimate the time it would take to get to the next check point. If I didn’t check in, the police would be notified that I was in some sort of highway trouble. 20 years later, we use Latitude for real time tracking.
The biggest outcry I have heard over this issue is that “Bad Guys can track you”. True, they can. So can the “Good Guys”. Ten years ago, this would have been a valid argument and a source of concern, even fear. Today, however, even the Bad Guys have cell phones…. With GeoLocation… Duh. For as many crimes as can be committed by the Bad Guys using GeoLocation to target their victims, there are as many Good Guys using the same technology to actually track the Bad Guys who are presumably tracking you.
Speaking of the Good Guys, one of the best uses of GeoLocation applications on cell phones is the life saving capability they provide to Search & Rescue and Crime Prevention Teams. Recently, a snowboarder who crashed off course used his cell phone GPS to assist the rescue team in finding him. The national Media doesn’t cover the success stories, only the tragic ones that leave you saying “if only there was a way the team could have found him earlier”. Recently, I was separated from my cell phone. Because of Latitude it was quickly identified that I was not where I was supposed to be…. Or at least my cell phone was indicating that I wasn’t. This caused a person in my life to immediately track me down. He knew before I did that a) my cell phone was not lost where I thought it was, and b) it was already in a Fed Ex package being returned to me. I was not in any peril, there was no emergency. But if there was…
The very idea that women, the most preyed upon class of people even in the United States, should not rely on their cell phone’s GPS capability is either ridiculous or calculated. The most effective weapon a woman has in a crime-situation is her cell phone. Why breed fear amongst the populace which calls into question the effectiveness of a crime deterrent? I don’t buy into the false sense of security argument I have heard/read over relying on a cell phone, because the phone itself is simply one tool in the box.
COOKIES AND SOCIAL NETWORKS – ADVERTISING
The most recent fear mongering Lovely Media is hyping, is the crimes by Facebook inflicted upon it’s addicted user-base. Because…. Facebook was the first to do this, right? I mean, what Facebook is doing is far more insidious than anything done previously.
When MySpace gave their advertisers the ability to “crawl your wall” and serve the MySpace Populace with targeted advertising based on their personality and demographic traits, it was completely different. Right?
So basically, all this fear mongering over you being “tracked” and “stalked” by advertisers is nothing more than annoyance that Facebook is copying MySpace. I thought that whole “my social network is better than yours” debate had been settled.
The internet privacy issue related to Cookies has been debated and discussed since websites started selling advertising on their domains. This isn’t new, it isn’t even novel. For twenty years, the Internet has been up for sale one click at a time. Advertisers have been dropping cookies on your machine since the first day you fired up that AOL account and logged into “the net”. Why do you think they are called cookies? Would you, in all seriousness, hit the accept button if the window said
“Please let me follow you around the internet so I can learn your habits and basically stalk your every thought”… ?
No, it is far more diplomatic to call it a cookie. No one ever thinks about the crumbs a cookie leaves behind, not in the bed, not on the sofa and certainly not on their computer. That paragraph up there? It’s been written before. It’s been written ad-nauseam year after year in blogs, OP-Ed’s, and forums. What bothers me is that every 5 or 6 years, with a new influx of “users” on the network, there is a fresh influx of surprise, shock and outrage over the lack of privacy on the internet.
The potential for cookies and advertising tracking to make life easier is huge. The notion that a bride-to-be or a first time home buyer can pop in a few search terms and within hours have a plethora of links served to them right on their Facebook page makes the daunting task that much more manageable. Having the same catering service or the same realtor served to the page every day for a week is not helpful, it’s almost counter productive.
The only way to make it better, is for Facebook and MySpace to become rigid in the advertisers they allow.
My irritation with the cookies is the blatant laziness on the part of Facebook’s and MySpace’s Marketing “executives” in not being more effective in the creation of better advertising. The Facebook programmers are some of the best in the industry. If they weren’t, there wouldn’t be a Facebook, there would be something else. The point is, watch the advertisements you are being served. The same one’s over and over and over. Here’s a hint, if we didn’t click on it the first 3 times it was served, what makes you think it will be clicked the next 9 times? Oh, it’s advertising by force…. Or annoyance. The belief we will click to make you go away is what you are banking on. But that gamble is exactly what is driving the annoyance, irritation and eventual fear mongering over the practice. An advertising campaign run by a corporation who is not too cheap to pay for good marketing coupled with good programming will be a success. Unfortunately, those same corporations trying to sell you their products are the same ones who Off Shored as much of their work force as possible, drying up US jobs and stripping the US of good programmers. If they are too cheap to pay US Workers (the programmers), what makes us believe they are going to invest in good marketing?
As I am paying attention to the Privacy issues, I notice that the biggest complaint is that of annoyance. By the time an offended User realizes that they have actively allowed themselves to be tracked by their GeoLocation and don’t know how to turn it off, or they are just lazy when it comes to regular PC care & feeding – like deleting all the cookie files.
The most effective way to manage Privacy on the Internet or your Smart Phone is to reconnect the Physical to the Virtual. In other words, if you are traveling to a destination, make sure you have the right address. You don’t drive up to a building “hoping” you got the address right, you make sure you have the right destination before you even get in the car. Why would driving your browser to a destination be any different?
Every Smart Phone and Smart Phone Service has dedicated web pages which give directions on how to use the phone/service. Simply learning how to use the very expensive gadget will alleviate many of the so-called privacy issues.
The real issue is the lack of actual “reading” people actually accomplish, not blatant privacy violations. Maybe if the newest generation of Users took the time to read the instructions, read the Access Requests and make an educated choice, the fear mongering will stop.