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Do We Deserve Privacy Online?

Posted by on Jan 13, 2010

I just finished reading a story on with the title Privacy is dead on Facebook. Get over it. The story pretty much laments the fact that there isn’t any privacy on Facebook, even with all their changes, and that it’s pretty much the story across the internet.

Big Brother Is Plugged In

Privacy on the internet is an interesting dichotomy. We all say we want to be able to disseminate whatever we want to and yet still retain a bit of anonymity here and there. I actually understand some of that, as Mitch isn’t my birth name, and I tell almost no one what my middle name is. If one decided to really dig deep on the internet, I’m sure they’d find both answers.

When I first got on the internet back in 1995, I didn’t understand what most of it meant. The first service I signed up for was AOL. Like many people, I got that disk in the mail, loaded it onto my computer, and the rest was history. So was my privacy, because pretty quickly I started getting all sorts of email from suppliers who contracted with AOL for my email address. And things took off from there.

Let’s talk about privacy for a little bit. Here’s the big hairy question in the room; do you really think that you can be online and have privacy? If you do, I’m sorry to say, you’re living in a dream world. People who have never been online can be found online. For some of those folks, it might cost a little bit of money, but most of them are online in some fashion. I did a quick check to find that my grandmother doesn’t have her name anywhere online, but my mother does.

Why is that? Because my grandmother has never had a credit card or a driver’s license. She’s never signed up for email or anything else online, and she hasn’t worked since, I believe, 1980 at least. She’s never left the country, so no passport. In other words, she’s basically a non-entity in the online world.

Mom, on the other hand, worked up until 1997. She had a couple of credit cards. She has an email address. Her name is on the mortgage of the house she owns. She can check her bank balances online. And her name is in the phone book. That’s enough information for Mom to have a trail by which people can find her online if they know her name. She has a picture online, courtesy of yours truly, but not with her name associated with it, so she’s fairly protected there.

Here’s the general thing. If you want privacy, don’t do anything that might encourage someone to invade it. If you sign up on Facebook, you’ve invited people to find you; maybe not the people you want to find you, but that’s too bad. If you put up pictures of yourself doing stupid things, you’ve invited yourself to scrutiny. I don’t know how real this is, but has anyone seen this blog called THE DAILY SCOOP OF STUPIDITY-THE PEOPLE OF FACEBOOK, where the author puts up pictures he supposedly pulled from Facebook? There was also this one post from College Candy on the types of photos on Facebook. If these are all real, not much privacy there, is it? Why would these people put these pictures up to begin with?

And some of the other stuff people put on Facebook is amazing. If you’re married and most of the world knows it, don’t put up that you’re single and looking for a member of the opposite sex for anything. If you work in certain industries, don’t put up your resume as if you’re looking for a job, and certainly don’t indicate your politics and religion, unless they’re the same as where you work (come on, we know that most places of employment have a political and religious leaning, whether they’re supposed to or not). Don’t sign up for games you don’t want anyone knowing you’re playing. Don’t become friends with people you don’t know just because they’re hot without knowing if they play well, and safely with others. Don’t join groups you think no one’s going to know about because it’ll probably show up in your feed. And, of course, check your privacy settings, but know that they can only go as far as the people you think you can trust who might out you anyway. If you’re worried that the wrong people will see it, keep it to yourself.

On to Twitter. One of my wife’s friends was shocked to find out that, after she found me and added me to her account, I could read what she was writing to her daughter. I told her she hadn’t protected her account, just added people, and that everyone could see what she was writing, and what was written back to her. She immediately closed her account. If you have no idea what something is, don’t sign up for it. She’s an intelligent woman who did a stupid thing; she should have known better.

Saturation of Privacy

People say things on Twitter all the time, then don’t think they should be held accountable for what they say because it’s their freedom of speech. Sorry Sparky, but freedom of speech comes with a cost and a consequence. If you don’t want to be judged, watch your language, watch what you have to say, and, well, shut up. If you say it, own up to it and move on.

During 2008’s presidential election, I dropped a lot of people for inappropriate things they were saying about Barack Obama. I kept doing so after the election, after his inauguration, and even now. I’ll call out business people who say stupid things, even at networking events, because those are people I’d never work with, and if they didn’t mean it they shouldn’t have said it. I’m an equal opportunity “caller-outer”, as I called out Harry Reid for his stupidity that was reported last week also.

Time to finish, as this has gotten long, and I could go on for another 1,000 words. There is no real privacy online, period. If you want some control, you have to learn how to protect some of your information. For instance, if you have a website, when you pay for the domain name hide the info so no one can track you back; I use that one all the time. If you want to write stupid stuff to or about other people, don’t do it from home, because you can be tracked easily enough by anyone with a little bit of internet savvy or that has friends with some internet savvy. Don’t think that hiding behind a fake name will protect you for long; if you’re irritating enough, you’ll be found out, even if by court order.

Trust me, you’re out there; it’s up to you to make sure you’re represented the way you want to be.

Privacy Lost: How Technology Is Endangering Your Privacy

Privacy Lost: How Technology Is Endangering Your Privacy

Price – $16.99

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I think you’re right for the most part – there isn’t really privacy online. You would have to really go out of your way to maintain some level of something close to privacy, but in the end if someone is sufficiently motivated to find you or information about you, they will figure out how to do it. And it really is a funny thing because all these millions of people go online and share some of the most intimate details about themselves – their birthdays, photos, email address, website, lists of friends – and then demand privacy, as if they hadn’t just published an autobiography in a public forum.
.-= Mark´s last blog ..Toronto Movers =-.

January 13th, 2010 | 5:34 PM

And there you are, Mark. I don’t have my birth date out there, although, if people pay attention to my words, they at least can figure out the around about time. I also only save passwords in Firefox that have nothing to do with money, which is the wise thing to do.

January 13th, 2010 | 8:24 PM

Now you know I had to go and check and see if my mother was anywhere online. And guess what??? SHE IS! Not for anything she’s done–it’s what I DID! I wrote about her in two of my books and in a few blog posts. Oh if she only knew, she would sue me for sure!

On a serious note, this one of the best posts I’ve read on the whole subject of privacy and I totally agree with you. Please give me permission to post it on BDTV.
.-= Beverly Mahone´s last blog ..The Challenge of Raising a Black Male =-.

January 13th, 2010 | 8:49 PM

Go for it, Miss Bev!

January 13th, 2010 | 8:58 PM

“Trust me, you’re out there; it’s up to you to make sure you’re represented the way you want to be.”

If we do our business with the highest degree of integrity, then nothing to worry.

Thanks Mitch for this interesting post.


January 13th, 2010 | 9:00 PM

No problem, Jose, thanks for your comment. I fully agree with your statement as well.

January 13th, 2010 | 10:21 PM

I think if we sign up for a service and they state that our information will be kept private then it should be. Facebook has made a lot of mistakes where privacy is concerned.

But let’s look at Blogger. A number of people have used the service to harass other people.

The anonymity of the internet has made it just that much worse, because it gives harassers the power to attack others with little risk of being caught and for those being harassed via a service like Blogger it provides no protection.

Do the people hiding behind anonymity deserve privacy- no.

Not when the outcome can be devastating to the victims.

College Candy post is funny.

You offer some good tips with regards to hiding your whois etc. Great post Mich.. Consider it RT
.-= Rose´s last blog ..Coca-cola a migraine headache remedy =-.

January 13th, 2010 | 10:11 PM

Thanks Rose. I agree with you when a company tells you they won’t give your contact information to advertisers and the like, but when anyone puts info on the internet otherwise, it can probably be found by whomever decided they wanted to look for it.

January 13th, 2010 | 10:29 PM

With Facebook though it’s not the company themselves that give out the information it’s the people you’ve friended. It’s sort of like a chain reaction, I let a friend see a photo and he let’s one of his who I don’t even know see it.

Anyway, once your online you may as well chuck privacy out the door.
.-= Sire´s last blog ..The Honest Truth About Blogging For Money =-.

January 14th, 2010 | 1:55 AM

Actually Sire, they stick does give out some of your information to some of their advertisers. They do a bad job of it, since I seem to get a lot of advertisements for matchmaking when my profile obviously says that I married, but they do it. At one point last year, they were giving out information on things that you bought online, even if you yourself didn’t post it on Facebook, but they finally dropped that program.

But we do agree about the privacy thing overall.

January 14th, 2010 | 10:42 AM

I don’t recall getting any of those emails. Maybe they don’t like Aussies? Yay!
.-= Sire´s last blog ..The Honest Truth About Blogging For Money =-.

January 14th, 2010 | 5:49 PM

It wasn’t email, Sire, but advertisers that supposedly were gearing things towards your interests. Actually, it’s possible we got email and didn’t know it was the result of what was happening on Facebook; nah, let’s not even think about it.

January 14th, 2010 | 6:22 PM

If we were to attempt to test the ability of someone to have privacy on the net, who would be a good test.

Well, the CEO of Google would be a good bet. He has an army of programmers, and a huge firewall protecting his data.

So he issued a hacker challenge to find out anything about him online.

It wasn’t one hour that EVERYTHING about this fellow came sailing in from outside of the Google firewall.

I mean everything. His address, private phone numbers, insurance policy numbers, social security number, everything. And, it was published on a popular forum.

This fellow was incensed. How dare they invade my privacy like that he said.

Yep! How dare they………..
.-= beth charette´s last blog ..New Article: Elf Culture: One with Nature =-.

January 14th, 2010 | 2:45 AM

That’s pretty funny Beth. The truth is that for it as little as $6.95 you can request a file on pretty much anybody and get a lot of information that you probably shouldn’t be allowed to have. That’s pretty scary to someone like me, and should be scary to pretty much everybody. I did a little interesting test this morning by going into Google images and looking to see if any pictures of myself came up under certain names. It was interesting that if you put in Mitch Mitchell my picture doesn’t come up anywhere. But preventing derivations of it and there I am. I’m sure it’s that way for pretty much anybody.

January 14th, 2010 | 10:47 AM

I gave up my privacy a long time ago, not knowing any better, such with many things in life, we learn too late.
.-= Ms. Freeman´s last blog ..A Plea On Behalf of Haiti =-.

January 14th, 2010 | 4:26 PM

Beth, I think it depends on what our goal or use might be that determines how good or bad it is. For me, once I decided I was going to be an entrepreneur with certain goals that meant I needed publicity, most privacy went out the window. And I haven’t worried much about it since.

January 15th, 2010 | 4:50 PM
Dennis Edell:

Interesting stuff Mitch, I just read a post discussing photo privacy, you may want to check it out.

January 15th, 2010 | 11:41 AM

I follow that blog, Dennis, but I’m a little behind on some blogs. Thanks for the heads up.

January 15th, 2010 | 12:27 PM
Dennis Edell:

You definitely need time for her stuff, most articles are real “thinkers”.

January 16th, 2010 | 1:20 PM

I went there last night, read, and commented. She does write good stuff, for sure.

January 16th, 2010 | 4:42 PM

You can maintain privacy in your own pc.. but not to much privacy in www. Use proxy, dynamic ip, good hardware firewall, cookie filters, anti-spyware, anti-virus with antiphishing features etc.

January 16th, 2010 | 2:06 AM

GG, the thing is that most people have no idea about that stuff, and of course it’s assuming that people aren’t doing anything else online.

January 16th, 2010 | 2:27 AM