Privacy? Not Here!


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Today’s Daily Prompt: “How do you manage your online privacy? Are there certain things you won’t post in certain places? Information you’ll never share online? Or do you assume information about you is accessible anyway?”

Online privacy is a huge issue. We are now putting huge amounts of personal information online.

Between Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Foursquare and our blogs it is possible to obtain a great deal of information about people.

Try an experiment, search Google for “honestpuck”. You will find this blog, my profile on Slashdot, Flickr account, Twitter account, Instagram account, App.net account and my Facebook account – and that’s only the first two pages. Just to confuse the issue you will find things like a DeviantArt account that isn’t mine. To really get in to some hard core data mining about me try a Google search for “honestpuck Tony Williams”.

I’ve been online for a long time. I used to assist in running a BBS back in the eighties and nineties, in the early nineties I ran the Australia forum on CompuServe. I’ve had a self-hosted blog as well as trying out Tumblr and Blogger before settling down here on WordPress. I’ve also written a lot of reviews for Slashdot and Amazon.

Given all that I’ve long ago accepted that anything I write or post on the net, no matter how obscure the website, is there for all to read.

Privacy of writing does not exist on the net. Anyone that tells you different is attempting to fool you.

There is one aspect of privacy that can exist if you work at it. It is possible, using a variety of technologies, to hide from where you are entering the net and where you visit in your web browser. The software systems that track your online activity can be easily thwarted.

I don’t do that. I don’t mind anyone knowing what I’m doing online, I long ago adjusted to an online world with little privacy and giving companies like Amazon and Google that information makes my life easier. I don’t even mind that my browser history sometimes shows visits to X-rated websites.

Given all these things there is nothing that I would say or do online in on place that I wouldn’t do in another apart from subject-matter variation. I wouldn’t post a review of a book of poetry to my technical blog or Slashdot.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t things I will never post online, just that I see no reason to censor private information in one place on the web while posting it in another – if someone wants to find that information they will find it if it is online.

Some examples: I never posted a photo of my ex-partner’s son online, there are certain details of my health that I will never mention. I will also never mention online anything told to me in confidence even if I was to remove personal details and change the names – it might be possible for someone who knows us both to add two and two.

That doesn’t mean I don’t take care. I’ve carefully checked the privacy settings on Facebook and thought about each setting so I know exactly what information is accessible to which people, applications and advertisers. I have also deleted my profile from several spots including dating sites. These are the sort of routine online safety measures that we should all do.

I feel that an issue as large and fearsome as privacy is the ownership and use of online information – not just what we post but such details of our online life as the sites we visit and the things we search for.

At the moment there seems to be a large and loud discussion going on about some Government snooping and some companies giving the Federal government direct access to some user information. Here lies the real problem.

Google actually is the biggest threat to my online privacy. They can read all my emails, track what I search for and which links in the results I choose and any number of my online actions. That’s closely followed by Amazon and Paypal. What will happen to that information?

Then there is ownership. Who owns my Facebook posts or my tweets?

These issues are of more concern to me than actual privacy.

So my final word is one of caution. Take care out there folks.

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8 thoughts on “Privacy? Not Here!

  1. Thoughtful and helpful, thanks for both your expertise and your perspective. Perhaps awareness of the double-edged nature of all that online communication affords us is a starting place. If we’re going to play, we pay a price. Like anything worth doing in life. Thank you!

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