I came across an excellent article recently on the Globe and Mail’s Technology page. Written by Ivor Tossell, it recaps Facebook’s privacy challenges in 2007.
In analyzing the Facebook’s ill-conceived technology to track user behaviour online, Mr. Tossell makes an interesting comment:
Our online behaviour, which is being tracked so closely by so many eyes, betrays the real us. Privacy isn’t defined by the things we say about ourselves; it’s defined by things we do online.
While this topic has been commented on before, stories like this one remind us how our own actions online contibute more to privacy erosion than our explicit release of confidential information on social networking sites.
Want to keep that embarrassing medical problem private? Best not to go searching for cures on the Internet — that search engine or spyware keeps a record of your condition…
Have a crush on a married co-worker? You may want to limit those obsessive web searches to library internet kiosks, not your office PC. Corporate IT has its eyes on you…
Every racy Google search, every visit to a questionable web site and every controversial book you buy can be tracked, not just by malicious, deviant inspired spyware. Check out CA’s security blog for a remarkable case of corporate malevolence:
Sears.com is distributing spyware that tracks all your Internet usage – including banking logins, email, and all other forms of Internet usage – all in the name of “community participation.” Every website visitor that joins the Sears community installs software that acts as a proxy to every web transaction made on the compromised computer. In other words, if you have installed Sears software (“the proxy”) on your system, all data transmitted to and from your system will be intercepted.
While it is disturbing that a major retailer with such a strong reputation would risk its brand by engaging in such acts, ultimately it is up to us to control what services we use and what information we share with web sites. We need not worry so much about big (or little) brothers poking around in our lives if we just keep a leash on our own sensitive information.