Privacy on the Internet? (non-technical)

Last week I had a lengthy discussion with a friend about privacy issues pertaining to social networks on the Internet. Privacy and social networks? The longer I think about it, the more I believe that our society must be sick … seriously sick.

There is people out there, who do not want any other human to know their name, date of birth, or even the obvious fact of their existence. There is nothing wrong with this decision, and I fully respect the human’s right to freedom.

What really drives me nuts, however, is the fact that such persons sign in on facebook, Google+, online stores, etc. I’m sorry, but in my personal opinion there is no other word for it than ‘digital media illiteracy’. The reason why I’m using such a harsh expression is that interrelations between privacy and worldwide computer networking should be very easy to understand. You don’t need a grade in computer science to know that if you interconnect all computers in the world by zillions of cables, any data within this network could potentially go everywhere in the world. Furthermore, any computer connected to the network may share its free resources with other computers, which results in a tremendous computing performance. Both the accessibility of data and the enormous computing power may allow “the net” to gain new information from existing data.

In other words, “the net” is capable of calculating missing information about you from information that already exists somewhere on “the net”. Similar to a CSI profiler, “the net” will follow all traces you leave while browsing websites, using search engines, registering software, checking your email and bank accounts, and so on.

Some people may argue that gathering such information implies illegal activities such as hacking. What they forgot to consider is that ‘illegal’ always refers to some legislation in some specific state, country, or part of the world. What they also did not take into account is that it is relatively easy for hackers to disguise their real identity.

The reality is dark, creepy, and terrifying. Anything else is putting lipstick on the pig!

I doubt that it would be possible to stay safe from theft of privacy in today’s world, especially for anyone participating in social life. If you want to have a try, you should never

  • own a computer
  • own a mobile phone
  • receive or send any email
  • participate in activities that may be discussed on the web
  • participate in sweepstakes or lottery
  • meet a person who might send information about you into the web
  • rely on legislation …

Even in the “good old times”, long before the invention of computer networks, people became victims of fraud or theft of information. What has changed since then is not the technical possibility, but only the means and the efficiency of collecting and processing information.

Instead of enacting hundreds of national laws that misleadingly suggest safety to the technically unversed, we should boost media education. If you are a teacher, talk to your students about this issue! If you have children, keep an eye on what they’re doing on the web!

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and …

… see you on “the net” 😀

— Andre M. Maier

About bitjunkie

Teacher, Lecturer, and BITJUNKIE ...
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