Privacy: Did We Have Any in the First Place?

    BentleyIs privacy dead or alive? Privacy advocates say it shouldn’t be and that we need to be more careful about what we share and don’t share online. Mark Zuckerberg, Eric Schmidt and others in similar positions say no one wants privacy anymore. And then there are those who stand to make a buck by convincing us that privacy is teetering on the edge of extinction, but their software or their service can help us keep our privacy alive.

    Our Lora Bentley decided to throw the question out there to see if anyone else had a different idea. So in a completely unscientific poll of roughly 20 folks who responded to an e-mail, Lora found six who say privacy is alive and three who think it is dead beyond any hope of revival. The more interesting responses came from those who fell somewhere in the middle. Some offer tips for consumers who want to keep their private lives private, others point to what various businesses offer to help do the same. They agree that regulation plays a part, but essentially, they say online privacy is what you make it. You have to decide what you’re comfortable disclosing and then do the work required to protect the rest of it.

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    Click through for quotes and perspective from Lora’s polling on online privacy issues.

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    Brit Brogaard, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Psychology at the University of Missouri, Saint Louis: “Online privacy is still very much alive. While many Americans fear centralization and government control if the online privacy rules are strengthened, most are truly concerned about online privacy and want better protection of their personal data. It’s not just the threat of identity theft that fuels people’s concerns but also the tracking of their online activities by e-companies in order to deliver tailored advertising.”

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    Monte Robertson, CEO, Software and Security Solutions: “Online privacy is alive and well, as long as what you want and what you don’t want to share is completely separated. The Internet is a wonderful new sandbox where we are all learning how to share once again. The key for each Internet user is to carefully determine at what level to share certain information.”For the information you do not want to share, the rule is simple. Do your best to not let it anywhere near the Internet.”The second rule might be to error on the side of caution when sharing information on the Internet.

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    Phil Stuart, “It’s alive. With more than 8 million customers here at Go Daddy, we talk to people every day who are concerned about their privacy on the Internet… Whether you’re a blogger covering a sensitive issue, an entrepreneur working from home, or just a savvy consumer who wants to keep your identity private, there are plenty of strategies available to retain your good name.”

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    Michael Ginsberg, President and CEO, Echoworx: “Online privacy is very much alive! With the introduction of privacy legislation and many companies following best practices, organizations have no choice but to comply and take steps to protect their confidential information. The consequences for not encrypting e-mail and other content can result in significant fines, loss of reputation, loss of customers and, possibly, business failure.”

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    Bob Janacek, Chief Technology Officer and Founder, DataMotion: “Online privacy is alive. In today’s litigious environment, many businesses worry about losing sensitive or private data – especially via e-mail and files sent across the Internet. Businesses are communicating more and more frequently with their customers and partners via e-mail. In these communications, they are often including private information that, when not protected, could facilitate identity theft or fraud, and leave a company in crisis mode, with costly brand repair work.Regulations such as HIPAA, Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) and PCI Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) demand that private information in electronic format be protected from hackers and from unauthorized usage. Enterprises need easy methods to encrypt e-mail and files, track their progress from one stage of communication to the next and prove their successful delivery or non-delivery. Yet, secure e-mail and file transfer have been perceived as too difficult to implement and use, and many have resisted what would otherwise have been an obvious next step on the road to a secure network.”

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    Ty Huelle, “Online privacy is alive, offline is the real risk to privacy. Although the Payment Card Industry does a good job at ensuring IT controls are in-place for credit card privacy, there is little done to stop credit card thieves from stealing your information offline. Part of the reason is because the Payment Card Industry (PCI) will not follow their own Data Security Standard (DSS) Requirement 3.3, Mask the Primary Account Number (PAN) when displayed. If you look at your credit card, you will notice that all of the sensitive information such as the PAN is printed in clear text; now is it necessary to trust every merchant employee with this information when all they do is swipe your card?”

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    Jon-Louis Heimerl, Director of SaaS Development for Solutionary: “It’s more like privacy is in the intensive care unit. People once said that on the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog. Social media not only lets everyone know you’re a dog, but that you’re a Collie who likes to untie shoelaces, eats Purina, and runs in the park.”Social media is the communication vehicle of choice for today’s generation. With social media, privacy takes discipline. People have Facebook and Twitter on their handhelds and the flow of information is constant. People can share only what they want other people to see, but often don’t realize they leave tracks everywhere they go online. Cookies and Web sites gather IP information and monitor habits. Realistically, if you don’t want people to know what you are doing online, you shouldn’t do it.”Part of the problem is that there are plenty of ways someone can get your information, and you have little control. You share information with your bank, doctor, Internet provider, merchants, etc. Your information is everywhere, and it can end up online at any time.”You can have some privacy if you want, but it takes constant vigilance, and a healthy dose of paranoia.”

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    Linda Criddle, president of the Safe Internet Alliance: “The health of online privacy today is split between the ultra-wealthy, who can afford to guard their privacy, and the average consumer, for whom privacy is on life-support.The vulnerability caused by bad actors is ubiquitous even though most companies, including flagships Microsoft, AOL and Yahoo!, go to great lengths to protect privacy, have clear policies that don’t change every time you turn around, and clearly respect their users.”Fortunately, consumer groups are taking action to make such practices universal. On April 8, the Center for Digital Democracy, US PIRG and World Privacy Forum filed a complaint with the FTC, calling for an investigation into companies conducting stealth collection of consumer data. Only through such concerted efforts can consumers effectively dictate their own privacy boundaries.”

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    Arash Afshar, Proof of Life: “Like angels, ‘online privacy’ was never neither dead nor alive. There is no differentiation between online privacy and real-life privacy. Placing something online is the real-life equivalent to saying something out loud in front of a bunch of people. Once you’ve put it out there, it’s out there in some shape or form forever.”

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    Jason Mark Anderman, an adjunct professor at Seton Hall University School of Law: “When it comes to your personal health information, online privacy is alive and dead. It’s alive in the sense that Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama have all issued laws or regulations protecting your personal information. However, these rules are incredibly complex and elaborate, so many doctors’ offices simply ignore them, and hardly anyone has ever been penalized despite tens of thousands of complaints, making your most personal information, your health privacy, quite unprotected when shared with doctors online.”

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    Amrit Williams, CTO at BigFix: “Online privacy may not be completely dead, but a prudently paranoid person would assume that they have no privacy and conduct themselves accordingly. It’s not so much that evil hackers or big brother are watching your every move, but almost any personal data revealed via the Internet has some value to someone, often in ways that are impossible to anticipate. Whether it’s a bank, a car dealership, a real-estate agent, a government agency, a current or potential employer, or your kid’s homeroom teacher, you are living your life in public. Not to be too fatalistic, but we are truly living in a world without secrets.”

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    Luther Martin, Chief Security Architect, Voltage Security: “The 1890 Harvard Law Review article ‘The Right to Privacy’ by Samuel Warren and Louis Brandeis is probably one of the most influential articles ever written on the topic of privacy law, and it certainly looks like Warren and Brandeis started thinking about the need to protect privacy because of technological innovations.”We have this same problem today. Cell phone carriers have databases of every call that we make. E-commerce Web sites track every click we make and every page we view.”Back in the 1880s, however, the problem was slightly different: Warren and Brandeis were particularly concerned about the loss of privacy that the new technologies for photography allowed. After all, if anyone can take a photograph without you knowing it, the possibilities for abuse of the technology are limited only by the imagination of the people who have cameras.”From the early twenty-first century, it almost seems hard to believe that cameras could cause so much concern, but that’s because we’ve accepted that the violation of privacy that they allow is an acceptable cost of using the technology.”Similarly, there is definitely a loss of privacy from the widespread use of the Internet, but we’ll probably accept that loss as an acceptable cost of using that technology. Privacy isn’t dead because of the Internet, but that’s because we’ll adjust our understanding of what level of privacy is acceptable because of it.”

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    Bill Ho, Vice President Internet Products, Biscom, Inc: “Like Schrdinger’s cat, online privacy is both dead and alive at the same time. Our information is out there – it’s collected by numerous entities, including banks, shopping sites, social media, and other business and personal sites we visit. In many cases, once it’s out there, that bell cannot be “unrung,” as they say. Once you put your information out there, especially on the Facebooks and MySpaces of the world, it’s tough if you ever have to clean it up. Various search engines, ISPs, and other caching sites (like the Wayback Machine, a.k.a. the Internet Archive), will keep your information out there ostensibly forever. Even worse, you’ll find several examples of young people who receive leniency from a judge for poor judgment or behavior, later post pictures online flaunting said bad behavior, are discovered, and then land back in trouble. What are they thinking? Obviously not too concerned about keeping things private. Others realize that their life is not an open book. They do not believe tweeting what they had for breakfast is noteworthy, while others find it absolutely compelling news. When you have these extremes, it’s easy to see why online privacy is both alive and dead. But unlike the cat, it’s up to the person to decide.”

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    Nicole Donnelly, Founder, “Online privacy is as alive as you want it to be. With the expectation of transparency so prevalent, you have the option to choose how much you want to disclose. With Web 3.0, it’s all about the individual andpersonalizing your experience, so the more you give, the more you get.”

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    Robert W. Gehl, Ph.D. Candidate, Cultural Studies, George Mason University: “Online privacy is not dead, but one wonders if it was ever alive. From the earliest days of the Internet and up to today’s time of social networking sites, users have always been subject to possible surveillance by a wide range of entities. At first, the Internet was administered by the U.S. military, which worked to protect the network from unauthorized use. This gave rise to passwords and tracking software to confirm identities and pinpoint intruders. When the Internet was privatized, commercial interests built upon these tools to track users in order to gain consumer data. All of these methods have been resisted by privacy advocates and savvy computer users; there are ways around being constantly watched online. However, the vast majority of people on the Web are not using tools to protect themselves. Privacy isn’t dead, but it’s too much work for people to protect it.”

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    Richard Clooke, Worldwide Review Program Manager, PC Tools: “As the popularity of social networking sites grows and users become more comfortable with creating an online identity, privacy has become increasingly complex. Internet users need to be aware of the accessibility of their various online profiles to ensure cybercriminals can’t capture their personal information. With governments around the world initiating mandatory Internet filters or introducing bills pertaining to digital activity, it’s important for users to be aware that their online behavior is not always as private as they might believe.”

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    Ashley Baxter, Online Marketing Specialist, The Metroplex Marketing Edge: “Online privacy is dead unless you’re comfortable looking like you’ve got something to hide. If you’re okay with looking like you have something to hide, chances are your career or business is dying or already dead. In today’s time, being transparent lends you credibility and respect in ways that can be a great asset to your company or personal brand. Those that aren’t transparent seem sneaky or shady, and no one wants to do business with someone perceived as those things.”

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    Robert Siciliano CEO of “Privacy is an illusion. The focus today should be security, not privacy. Yet everywhere you go, there is a privacy advocate screaming to protect your privacy. Privacy advocates, bless them, are a dying breed. They fight for whatever privacy rights there are left and do their best to remain watchdogs. If your gig is privacy, my guess is you have lost all your hair and are popping Prozac to relieve the stress of today’s anti-private society. And you are fully employed and very, very busy.”

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    Slavik Markovich, CTO of Sentrigo: “Online privacy is dead, but the ramifications of that have yet to be felt. Too many people, have shared way too much personal information, demonstrating that they simply don’t value privacy online. … The concern here is not that these “information exhibitionists” are giving up their privacy, but the fact that this data is often used by financial institutions, online retail sites, telecommunications providers and other vendors for authentication. While the security vendors are putting in place systems to minimize vulnerability from hackers, and breach notification laws require companies to disclose when customer data has been compromised, we can’t save people from themselves.”

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