Friday, August 16, 2013

There's no such thing as "privacy" online

Earlier I wrote about the fact that Edwards Snowden's "handlers" aren't really concerned about privacy. If they were, they surely wouldn't completely ignore things like this:
...Acxiom [a commercial data broker] reportedly has information on about 700 million active consumers worldwide, with some 1,500 data points per person. Such data brokers learn about us from the cookies that hitch rides as users travel online and from the social media sites where we post everything from home addresses to pictures to magazine subscriptions and store purchases, as well as deeds on file in towns and counties. They load all this data into sophisticated algorithms that spew out alarmingly personal predictions about our health, financial status, interests, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, politics and habits.
As Bob Cesca pointed out the other day, visiting Glenn Greenwald's article about XKEYSCORE at The Guardian would have provided information to 27 different trackers for this kind of data. While Glenn and The Guardian are hyperventilating about the fact that the US government might get access to that information (when in reality, NSA's online searches are restricted to non US persons), they obviously don't give a shit about the actual dossier on almost every American that companies like Acxiom make available to the corporate world.

That's what makes the whole conversation about all of this so ridiculous and infuriating. If there were two messages I'd like to scream at everyone they would be:
  1. Take a look at the real agenda of folks like Greenwald, Assange, and Applebaum - it has absolutely nothing to do with privacy.
  2. There is no such thing as privacy online. If we want to take advantage of the internet, we just have to accept that.
If we could understand those two things, we might actually be able to have a reasonable conversation about the very real issues that are involved.


  1. I think accepting that there is no such thing as privacy online is a healthy attitude to adopt. Frankly I hope those 1500 data points per person are preserved for posterity. It will be a marvelous study in human nature and history and humankind, not to mention the boon to genealogy. I wish that kind of information were available about my ancestors.

    It does give me pause however when I write emails. Pretty sure I would not be viewed favorably by history were anyone to read how I lost my cool with my local Party's E-Board last week. Otherwise, wow...will snoopers nod off from sheer boredom were they to bother for a moment to try to slog through my day-to-day activities online.

    For all that these dossiers exist on us, they still can't control the way I think.

    Thanks for all your hard work on this, Smartypants.

  2. Privacy really started to go when the computer took over the bulk of the work relating to financial transactions. Years ago when everyone suddenly had debit/credit cards, the banks and large retailers, credit bureaus among others started collecting,storing,and then using the data. While there may be some concerns as to how the Government uses the data it collects, but as far as PRIVACY, boy that horse left the barn a long time ago.

  3. Plus they are not concerned enough to stop screaming about evil government on facebook, twitter, and every other social medium. Were the government truly evil they'd all be on a penal colony on the moon by now.


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