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Who killed online privacy?

Who killed online privacy?

There it was in black and white, announced by CNN (and others) in 2013 for all the world to see: Online privacy is dead. There’s no denying it; if it’s on the Internet, it’s not private.

Like a good game of Clue, let’s tackle this “murder mystery” one suspect at a time. Instead of Colonel Mustard in the library with a candlestick, we’ll determine whether it was the NSA that dealt the killing blow. Or maybe it was Facebook? Or was it our own FOMO (fear of missing out) that inspired the oversharing that took down the whole online privacy paradigm?

The suspects

1. The National Security Agency, or NSA

In September 2013, PC Magazine declared, “Privacy is dead. The NSA killed it. Now what?

Case closed?

Let’s back up a little. For those of you just crawling out from under a rock, tremendous waves were made when now-exiled privacy freedom fighter and/or betrayer of the U.S. (depending on who you ask) former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked classified documents outlining the extent of governmental surveillance of the U.S. public. The NSA itself dates back to the early 1950s, and, according to Wikipedia, is “a U.S. intelligence agency responsible for global monitoring, collection, decoding, translation and analysis of information and data for foreign intelligence and counterintelligence purposes.” But when Snowden exposed the degree to which the organization was extending its mandate into the activities of John Q. Public, the proverbial something hit the something else. Personal data galore was compromised and exposed, and people were not happy about it. Not at all.

Bottom line, according to the reporter who wrote the article?

“There’s nothing you or I can do to put the genie back in the bottle. Universal electronic surveillance is here to stay, and we haven’t seen everything yet.”

Sounds pretty bleak. But is it an open-and-shut case? Is there more than a shadow of a doubt that it was the NSA that did it? Let’s examine the other suspects.

2. Facebook

Where to begin? It seems that Facebook has been slowly and methodically injuring online privacy since it came on the scene, or at least that’s what this Wikipedia entry about Facebook privacy concerns argues. It’s a veritable laundry list of offences:
• Exposure of member information
• Cooperation with government search requests
• Complaint from the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic about 22 breaches of the Canadian Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act
• Data mining
• Inability to voluntarily terminate accounts
• Etc.
• Etc.

It doesn’t sound good.

But maybe we all share some of the blame. Let’s see: perhaps it was…

3. All of us and our darned oversharing.

Forbes, in an article called “Privacy is completely and utterly dead and we killed it,” doesn’t leave much room for interpretation of the article headline.

We’re a bunch of privacy dummies, unaware yet steaming mad (or entirely indifferent) about the state of our online privacy.

From the article:

“Most people don’t even know what information they are giving up or to whom. For example, in their recent Privacy Index, EMC found that 51% of respondents were not willing to give up their personal information for a better experience (27% were), however, how many of these people realize that they are already doing this multiple times over every single day? In fact it’s safe to say that if you want privacy then you probably shouldn’t be using the internet or own a cell phone.”

Just yesterday, the New York Times reported on the latest Pew research results under the headline, “Americans say they want privacy, but act as if they don’t.”

The verdict

The jury’s still out. There’s still hope! There’s another side to this issue, it’s not all doom and gloom. The WIRED article Why privacy is actually thriving online explores the flipside of this argument and next week, we will too.

In a future post, we’ll explore the idea – and the evidence — that online privacy isn’t dead after all, that, in fact, it’s alive and well. Dodoname is in the business of privacy and so we feel strongly that informed consumers can protect their online privacy with our platform. And we’ll explain how online privacy is far from the victim of Miss Scarlett in the conservatory.

(Image: Flickr, DonkeyHotey, link)

Posted in: #TBT, Blog, Privacy

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