Friday, November 20, 2009

You have no privacy already...

... get over it.

Scott McNealy said that a few years ago and he was absolutely right.  This may sound cynical, but you should always be skeptical when law makers say they are going to "protect" you as its almost always from the wrong things.  One example is the totally pointless and useless COPPA law, which makes web site developers ask you your age and restrict your ability to communicate with others if YOU tell them you are under 13.  Well, I'm sure no kid has EVER lied about their age.... right?

Other examples of "protecting your privacy" have come and gone as legislation and all are equally pointless.

Why? Because people don't have to be required to give their privacy away... we all do it all the time, every day, voluntarily.  Its in the decisions we make and the actions we take.  Its in anything we do that is "in public' and, lets face it, that's most of our lives.  "Sharing" tools like Facebook, web forums, and so forth just increase the amount of information we provide on ourselves. 

As an example a group of MIT students recently wrote an "outing" program that predicts someones sexual preference based on nothing more then their circle of facebook friends.    It really shouldn't surprise us that who we associate with says a lot about who we are.

You might think you have some security/anonymity if, like me, you use a psuedonym for non-work related stuff.  But, it turns out, there is EASILY enough information on the net  on most of us to make correlations between our psudonyms and our real personae.

Its not just the net though, there are huge databases on what we do and who we are that pre-date the net.  The insurance industry has one that lists every medical procedure you've ever had.  Of course there are the credit databases that show our patterns of purchases.  The information is out there and, thanks to the cheapness of computing power, the genie is out of the bottle and anyone with some time and some horsepower can put together a surprising amount of detail on any of us.  If you doubt that, take a look at this "service" that was recently advertised in one of my professional management forums I participate in.

We have no privacy because we've already given it away, just by virtue of being part of this society.  So as Scott said, rather then passing pointless and ineffectual laws, we better start getting used to it and figure out how best to handle it.

No comments: