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Internet Privacy – Do We Really Want it?

As the battle for Internet privacy rolls on in Washington, privacy advocates are condemning  the vote to repeal Internet privacy protections approved by the Federal Communications Commission in the final days of the Obama administration. The rules would have required Internet service providers to get your permission before collecting and sharing your data and to notify customers about the types of information they collected and shared.

Internet service providers have a lot of data about on your web browsing history, app usage and geo-location.

We give them that data for convenience. We allow them to have it so we can quicker find what we want when we shop, so we can be informed about great deals we might appreciate when shopping. We check in on social media, leave reviews of restaurants, car services, hair salons, and hotels.

We look to the internet for recommendations about where to shop, what car to get, for best deals on plane tickets, vacation spots, boutique stores, fashion advice, and school research.

We put an enormous amount of information about ourselves out there for people to see.

Facebook has become a definitive record of people’s lives. From birthdays to wedding anniversaries to pregnancies, religion, health issues, and family tragedies – it’s all out there for the world to see. I rely on Facebook to remind me of birthdays and anniversaries. We schedule parties, meetings, and other events on social media. We post photos of trips, children, and activities.

When we were looking at buying a new car six months ago, I did a lot of Internet research. Every ad I saw all of a sudden showed me vehicles for sale in our area.

I clicked on a real estate ad once, because I saw a neat house and wanted to explore the interior. I’m still seeing ads for realtor.com, Redfin, and other sites trying to entice me into buying a home.

I have an email account strictly for spam. Anytime a website requires an email login, that’s the one I use. I haven’t logged into that account in probably more than a year. I expect there will be more than 10,000 messages from various websites, trying to sell me a car, a house, a magazine subscription, or a candidate.

Netflix makes recommendations for shows and movies I might like, based on shows and movies I have already watched.

There’s nothing the Internet doesn’t know.

There’s nothing the world doesn’t want to know about us.

Things that were once private and personal are on full display for the world to see and judge. Employers are using the Internet, social media, and comment sections in news sites to find out more about applicants than ever before.

Reality shows are more popular than ever. When I was working for WINC in Winchester as a news anchor, I had to go out and get soundbites from people on the street about a new series that took the country by storm. The finale of the first season of “Survivor” was airing that night, and the feature story was about whom people wanted to win the million dollars.

Last night’s “Survivor” episode had a contestant desperate to remain in the game out an opponent as transgender. On national television. While the episode was filmed months ago, and Zeke Smith consulted with CBS about how to best air the revelation, the guy’s personal life was used as a tool in a reality show game and subsequently as a publicity stunt. What’s next? This guy will be claimed as a pawn by every special interest group out there. Exposing something so personal about a human being in order to garner ratings or win a game show… I’m sickened by it. Anyone who doesn’t see the pain and utter shock on Zeke’s face as an opponent uses something so personal to paint him as a liar in order to win some money is blind.

They took the most personal, the most painful, the most frightening secret a person could have and made it into a side show. And it got ratings. And it got outrage. And it got publicity because of the outrage.

Everything about us is out there for the world to see.

Our likes, our dislikes, our families, and our experiences are all out there for the taking.

So why are we upset to know that Internet providers are monetizing our lives – the very lives we put out there for others to examine, judge, and comment on?

This shouldn’t be a surprise. We expose everything about our lives for the world to Google. We put our every secret, every feeling, every emotion we feel every time we feel it out into the ether.

We brought this on ourselves.

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26 responses

  1. “We brought this on ourselves.” Not all of us. Some of us turn off our phones. Some of us don’t post on Facebook or even have Twitter accounts. Some of us change personal information in places where it is demanded — according to the internet, I was born on a couple of dozen different dates and belong to both of the ordinary sexes. I use an ad blocker and opt out of advertising. As a matter of course, I clear my browser cache. Like you, some of us use anonymous email addresses. We want to be left alone. When I want to post a comment and the site demands that I log on using facebook, I delete my comment and move on. Google knows way more about me than I want so I stopped using Chrome and now use Opera with a VPN tunnel. One of these days I will write a browser plugin and try killing all of the google analytics and other tracking stuff. Maybe I will have to use a different search engine. But It is none of their business. I am glad that other people don’t care about this because online retail makes enough money from those people that they don’t miss people like me. I recognize that google works because other people make it worth their while. Someday, maybe that will stop. But not right now. The day that I have to use a client-side certificate or a CAC card or some such facility that eliminates anonymous use, I will stop using the internet – the cost will be too high.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You, however, are one of the very few who do. Ultimately, as a society, we don’t care. I’m seeing so much personal information out there, it’s scary!

      Liked by 2 people

    2. There are many free and effective plugins that already block tracking info. JS Blocker, NoScript, uBlock, Ghostery, and Disconnect are examples.

      Many VPNs, too. I use F-Secure Freedome on all my devices, but it is not free.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. > We brought this on ourselves

    Yep. I gave up trying to warn people about it long ago. Every few years internet privacy bubbles back up in the media, and I remind a number of people how they gave me pitying looks back then.

    A majority of people are all about privacy until it’s the least bit inconvenient for them. Then it’s either ignored or a new source of outrage.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Tch. Kate and I tried to do a discussion on Mad Genius Club for basic computer and Internet security some years ago, and we pretty much expected it would go to the “Mac Users will claim best OS.” Which it did.

      It was annoying because it was meant to teach basic stuff, regardless of OS, or even browser (though, really, there isn’t much you can do for personal info if a person’s favorite browser is Chrome, which is made by Google, but we were going to try give the basics anyway) – things like NoScript, and yes, things like using a spam email address. I’ve given up trying to teach people about basic stuff like that.

      *sigh*

      Like

  3. One thing you didn’t address is that this rule change only affected ISP’s, not other internet companies. It seems to me like it gave Facebook, Google, etc an advantage over AT&T, Comcast, etc – what is your take on that aspect of it? Was the rule change undoing ‘crony capitalism’?

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    1. I didn’t want to delve too deep in the weeds, because that’s not really what the post was about.

      I will be the first one to admit, I’m not an expert on this, but my sense is that if you do give FB, Google, etc. an advantage over ISPs, given how much of their business depends on ad revenue, it certainly sounds like crony capitalism (or lack of foresight).

      Like

    2. Google *already* “partners” with your ISP. That’s how they get your IP address even if you don’t use Google.

      Google’s ability to monitor your internet usage is just a step below that of the NSA.

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      1. Um, no. They don’t partner with the ISPs. Google, etc. has to have your ISP address to send your query results page back to you. That is how the internet works.

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        1. Or, use Duck-Duck-Go. That anonymizes your searches, too.

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        2. I use that and Firefox. Not that I have much expectation of privacy. I don’t.

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        3. I use that and Firefox. Not that I have much expectation of privacy. I don’t.

          Still, just those two things put you a bit ahead of a number of people, IMO.

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      2. DuckDuckgo advertises heavily, but they are still a US company – they can still be subject to FISA orders that require them to lie to their customers about not keeping records. To make sure your search provider isn’t lying to you, you need to use a foreign one in a country that (probably) won’t make it lie to you, like ixquick, which in my experience gives better results than DDG also.
        As far as browsers, if you like Chrome but don’t like the tracking it does, you can use the Iron variant that removes the tracking and ‘call home’ features.

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    3. The difference is that you can choose not to use Google or Bing. You can choose not to be on Facebook or Twitter. If you want to trade information for “free” stuff you can decide to do that.

      With your ISP you are captive and you are already paying them. If they want to use your info (and they would have ALL of it), they should have to get permission. And then they should pay you.

      Nice thing about a VPN, it encrypts the data your ISP sees – making it unsaleable – while obscuring your IP address from the likes of Google.

      Possibly useful analogy (using islands and bridges/boats) about how VPN’s work here:
      http://computer.howstuffworks.com/vpn1.htm

      See also:
      _The Best Browser Extensions that Protect Your Privacy_
      http://lifehacker.com/the-best-browser-extensions-that-protect-your-privacy-479408034

      Slightly dated, but informative.

      Like

    4. Google also asks for information. They’re regulated by the Department of Commerce since they do business across state lines. This was a power grab by FCC, siting a law that hasn’t really done anything since we started dropping land lines.

      Like

  4. You nailed this one! Good work.

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  5. I recall in the early days, when many of the pioneers of freedom, you know who you are, were trying to tell us about this issue. And even writing about how to hide from Big Brother, and the like. Things like keeping a low profile sort of thing, only on a much grander scale, if you will. I suspect that they would have been shocked to know just how fast and just how big the apparatus became to track everyone. And I wonder if there really is anything that the average person can do to cover their tracks now. I bet that things are so sophisticated that only the most savvy among us can truly remain anonymous. For the inevitable person who posts here that they don’t have anything to hide, can you also post your credit card information? Exactly why nobody should be able to access your data without your permission.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You still have a face**** account? Then, I’m sorry, you don’t get to lament how people are giving up their privacy. I got an account in the first 3 months of their existence, but I deleted it ( and haven’t been back-see numerous articles on how to delete a face**** account) when I noticed that every update reset my privacy settings to default, which was “bend over and smile”. Using it is a combination of technical ignorance ( Grandma “is this thing on”) and laziness (I don’t have time to take care of that) but 90% of what people use it for (sharing news and pic to family and friends) could be accomplished by setting up group addresses in their email client. Beside the privacy improvement, this would have the additional advantage of removing cash from that entitled jackals, Zuckerberg.

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    1. I get to lament whatever the fuck I want. It’s my site.

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      1. When I long ago came to lament my Facebook account, I deleted it. You can lament your own Facebook account if you want to, but it is odd to maintain it if you do.

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        1. I find it a convenient way to keep in touch with former Army buddies with whom I deploy. I weigh the costs and benefits of each post, IF I make a post at all. The internet has made real privacy a thing of the past. We need to understand that if we’re going to use it. And I do.

          Additionally, the post wasn’t about lamenting MY use of social media but questioning those who scream about privacy, while laying their lives bare on the net.

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  7. Listen Nicki, the sofeware that F.B. is using is the same as the C.I.A. AND N.S.A.
    trust me they are gathering this info so they can see who know’s who and catch you in a lie if you say you don’t know them. This is how they cross reffence you.

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  8. We brought this on ourselves.

    Who’s “we”?

    I have never used my real name on the PUBLIC side of the Internet. (blogs, social media, etc) But I AM forced to use my identity on banking sites, Amazon, Netflix, or any of the other services that require a secured connection (HTTPS).

    THIS is the traffic that you really don’t want your ISP to be selling to people.

    The government requires a warrant to dip in and check your internet traffic. But if they can BUY it from your ISP, they can bypass that warrant requirement.

    Yes, your social media crap is out there for EVERYONE to see. You lose any expectation of privacy on social media activity. Knowing this, I created a script that will scrub my FaceCrack Activity Log every three days. I have also set my privacy to not allow search bots to discover my FaceCrack account.

    I use OpenDNS and a VPN to keep my ISP from tracking what I do on the internet now.

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    1. This is a general commentary. Obviously there are people who are much more cautious about their privacy. But the general public writ large is absolutely negligent, but then they bitch about their privacy being compromised.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I was merely explaining what I do when it comes to maintaining online privacy.

        You are right, most people don’t bother to think about any of this — and then become completely butthurt when told that their privacy is being sold to anyone with cash.

        I would be negligent if I didn’t tell others how to protect themselves.

        People DO have to wake up when it comes to their privacy online. We can’t expect big business (or your ISP) to be concerned about your privacy. The best we can do is to require an “OPT-IN” rule if these people want to monetize and sell your personal information.

        Why Republicans feel the need to reverse the common-sense OPT-IN requirements only goes to show that they don’t give a flying fuck about the individuals, but instead cow-tow to their corporate masters.

        I don’t have a problem with your ISP (or any other service you use) wanting to monetize your internet activity. But they should FIRST have your PERMISSION to do so.

        But it still won’t stop me from protecting MYSELF.

        Liked by 2 people

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