March 26th, 2013
Is Internet Privacy dead?
Bruce Schneier, a renowned security expert thinks so in his article.
But does that mean that we shouldn’t take steps to protect ourselves? Instead of giving up and saying “Oh, internet privacy is dead,” there are concrete steps that can be taken to restore a level of privacy.
The first step is to create user awareness on internet privacy, which is already happening and to create demand for products with internet privacy features built-in. For instance, features such as privacy modes in browsers, which was previously unheard of is now a standard feature in most major browsers.
It’s not all doom and gloom. The current internet privacy situation was created by the rapid proliferation of social media and search engines but internet privacy is making a comeback. SOPA was defeated due to a large public outcry. Instagram was forced to clarify its privacy policies, Facebook introducing more fine-tuned privacy controls and Google being subject to EU data regulators just to name a few instances.
There’s also a difference in privacy for example, I don’t mind people knowing my name or my occupation. I don’t mind people knowing that I like KFC or Android phones. This information when combined together may build a profile of who I am, but they aren’t things that I would personally mind people knowing (of course there are some people who would). But I do mind people reading my e-mails, knowing my surfing habits or intercepting or censoring my communications. For the latter sort of privacy, there are VPNs, anonymous e-mails, PGP encryption and a whole bunch of tools that you can use and for the average Joe, these tools are good enough to protect the most private parts of your life.
In reality, there’s no such thing as absolute privacy. In Malaysia, we have our identity card numbers and voter registrations which can tell a lot of things about us. We pay taxes, take loans, we use credit cards all which require an immense amount of disclosure of information. The same goes for the internet except that unlike taxes and identity cards, you have the CHOICE on the internet whether to take the effort to maintain privacy. Don’t want the public knowing about your kids? Well don’t post go and post pictures of your kids or restrict it to a closed group! Don’t want your ISP to track your internet usage? Well use a VPN or TOR! It is in most cases a CHOICE to disclose information whether realized or not and that’s where user education comes in.