Monday, May 24th, 2010 at 12:09pm

Personal security and privacy in the information age

Posted by Jordan Erickson

Recent news media has focused a lot on privacy and personal information security on the Internet – namely drilling down to a few high profile .coms, Facebook and Google. Recent activities such as Google using their streetview road crew to record and capture information from residential wireless access points has drawn a fierce backlash from just about anybody against this wholesale gathering of information that many people are unaware they are broadcasting over radio waves for others to catch and analyze. Facebook has come under storm by privacy advocates citing that their privacy controls for peoples’ information on the famous social networking site is inadequate and too “open” by default – allowing seemingly disconnected entities such as Facebook groups and advertisers to capture and analyze information that people assume is private and only between their own friends and explicitly connected interest groups and pages. This includes live chat logs and personal messages, which many people equate to telephone conversations and e-mail or postal mail.

From the article:

“A quick search of recent news on the privacy front reveals that just about all of it is bad. Facebook is exposing users’ live chat sessions and other data to third parties. Google is caught recording not only MAC address and SSID information from public Wi-Fi hotspots, but storing data from the networks, as well.

Unfortunately, none of this is shocking or even surprising. It’s what we’ve come to expect on the Web. We assume that big companies are playing fast and loose with our personal information and that there’s little we can do about it. And this notion is reinforced by the companies themselves, especially social networking companies such as Facebook and Twitter that have built their entire business models on their users sharing personal information. It’s their lifeblood, and their goal is to make it as easy as possible for users to bring more and more people into their networks and share ever-increasing amounts of information.”

What is the answer? Should we assume all of the information we enter onto any website is going to be ‘public’ by default, or should we lock down the net and force .COMs to ensure our data is safe with them?

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