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Internet Use and Personal Privacy: Do I really need to be afraid?

  1. Sep 21, 2013 #1
    "Every click you ever make is recorded by Google."

    "Facebook is harvesting all your data and selling it to companies."

    I always hear comments like that. I'm supposed to be scaaaaaaaaared. And I don't know what to think of all this Social Media / Big Data / NSA / etc. fearmongering because I don't have a good understanding of web technology, privacy laws, etc.

    From what I would suspect, if some analytics team determines that people like me, who read the Drudge Report, are 32% more likely to buy gold ETFs, they're just doing a number crunch on anonymized data sets. It's not like my name and SS # and pictures of me funneling beer are being used.

    There's also something that my parents say that I'm almost certain is completely wrong. They say that employers doing background checks can see all your Facebook activity regardless of how your privacy settings are set. Obviously that's not true unless the company running background checks has a team of hackers or if Facebook is handing over to them my profile. I'm not sure where these myths originate.

    Anyways, can someone give me a primer on internet privacy?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 21, 2013 #2
    The profiles that Google, Facebook and frankly the government are building of us are more extensive and complex than you can imagine. I'm not saying be scared, but your little example is what they did in the early 90s. What they are capable of now is amazing and somewhat scary.
  4. Sep 21, 2013 #3


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    Don't get on the internet, else accept that you are going to sacrifice some privacy? Depending on your level of paranoia, there's also Bruce Schneier's guide on staying (relatively) anonymous.
  5. Sep 22, 2013 #4
    Welcome abroad the vessel where everyone knows everything about anyone:D

    No but really, facebook keeps the data of everything you have done and posted, of course, elsewise you wouldn't be able to access your photos and friend's profile.
    But there's really nothing to worry about, unless you are some teen superstar from disney or a political leader of some country, then facebook might have *use* for your info.
    Take it as an advise, post informations that you aren't concerned about it.
    Facebook users who aren't friend with you won't know it, but keep in mind that the owner of facebook can have access to it at a certain point in time.
  6. Sep 22, 2013 #5


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    I'm amazed at the attitudes of some people. They post *everything* and aren't concerned at all.

    For example, bragging about inappropriate (or even illegal) behavior might seem cute at the time, but there might be a time when it's not so cute. Could cost you a job, for example -- who knows? It's sooo easy to take online information out of context.
  7. Sep 23, 2013 #6


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    It does come back to bite them sometimes. Anyone hear about the 300 kids who broke into an NFL players' home, trashed it and then posted about it this month? He reposted the tweets and other postings for the police. Some real brilliant ones in there. Caution - lots of juvenile delinquent cursing.
  8. Sep 24, 2013 #7


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    NSA systems have already been used to spy on love interests, and have likely (this is my opinion) already been used to blackmail people. Individuals are not any more scrupulous than you or I.

    Imagine the power trip going on here, the commander of the NSA having his private "Dominance Center" designed as the command center from Star Trek, complete with whooshing doors (this is money out of your pocket).

    If you are a person who intends on shaking some things up in society—for example creating or distributing disruptive technologies or ideologies, are a high-risk activist or journalist, then you really need to take action and take care of yourself. Tor, virtual private networks, secure email, encrypted harddrives, and Bitcoin. It would be nice if they really were using this power only to prevent conspiracies for mass murder, but the truth is, they launder data to the IRS and DEA, and then ask them to lie about where they got the tips from.

    Regardless—do you really want the government watching every thing you do? Is our society so full of criminals that we must have every person's internet and financial profile tracked and recorded from childhood to adult? In my opinion, it is a transgression of the fundamental respect that should be given to a free and independent human being. The NSA is an organization that spies on people in other countries... they record your phone calls, text messages, emails, faxes, and GPS data... with a surprising lack of limitation. Is it going to make you feel more safe to pay for that, over something like funding better education for our kids, or saving the money for health care and charity?
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 24, 2013
  9. Sep 24, 2013 #8
    Not wanting something is one thing
    Not wanting something to the point where you are willing to do something about it is another
    Everything else is hot air
  10. Sep 24, 2013 #9


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    According to Richard Stallman cell phones contain some software(s) that allow the compagnies to use them as microphones. Even when turned off, they can still record and send the information. Personally I find this scary.
  11. Sep 24, 2013 #10


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    So big brother is a reality, what a shock.
  12. Sep 24, 2013 #11
    This thread reeks of tin foil hats.
  13. Sep 24, 2013 #12


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    I would be highly skeptical that they are recording and transmitting anything while turned off (or even when they're turned on, for that matter).
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2013
  14. Sep 25, 2013 #13


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  15. Sep 25, 2013 #14


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    Employers are a concern (for now at least, I'd be interested to see what the situation is like in the future when middle aged workers have grown up with social networks all their life). I've worked in places where people have checked the facebook and twitter profiles of potential employees. So either don't say anything you wouldn't want everyone to know or take the time to ensure your privacy settings are what they should be. Understand though that if you're thinking of going into a field where you will be in the public eye though certain people (i.e. journalists) will dig for anything embarrassing.

    On the political side of things I think it is worrying, purely for potential abuse. I've read articles discussing the ramifications of total surveillance (and as I citizen of a country with one camera to every ten citizens this is a concern). An interesting factor is still the vast majority of crimes would go unpunished because of lack of resources. Thus the police would have to prioritise. But say you became a "trouble maker" in the classical sense of being a political activist, well it would sure help the people in power if they had a huge mountain of personal data to sift through and arrest you for every minor transgression or every tweet with the word bomb in it (the latter is a present day concern, people have been arrested for innocent tweets under terrorism acts).

    And lastly there are nutters in this world. I've had death threads on this site before from crackpots, it probably wouldnt take much effort for them to track me down IRL and if it turned out I lived in the next town over they might get it in their heads to try for real.

    As with all things just be sensible and know what you're doing.
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