Revive privacy now

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Jul 17, 2012 Revive privacy now

As I previously have said, privacy has become a quaint concept with many — perhaps more cherished before dial/rotary phones were replaced en masse with pushbutton phone — and a reviled principle with plenty of others. If you want more privacy, stay off the Internet and off the phone.

Offline, the violations of privacy also are endless. We have photocopiers that place machine-specific watermarks on your copies, and photocopiers commonly retain the images you copy. Your credit and debit card transactions follow you everywhere. Your Social Security number has become a de facto government identification number. Your driver’s license is constantly relied upon as a form of identification. 

What to do about the severe erosions of privacy the extent of which even George Orwell may have barely imagined? Only if enough privacy lovers care and act effectively will privacy erosions be reversed. Otherwise, this is not a pleasant scalding hot bath to be in.

For us to decide how much privacy we wish to reclaim or sacrifice, it helps to know how severely our privacy is being usurped, including the following items:

– Two ProPublica reporters recently revealed how seriouly we give up our privacy by useing cellphones — and some solutions for more privacy — including:

— ‘Every year, private companies spend millions of dollars developing new services that track, store and share the words, movements and even the thoughts of their customers,’ writes Paul Ohm, a law professor at the University of Colorado."

— Cellphone carriers not only track your movements and websurfing, but even the time you go to sleep and wake up (via alarm clock apps?), all of which are useful for creating a consumer profile on you that can be sold to marketers and other compaines you deal with.

— "If you want to avoid some surveillance, the best option is to use cash for prepaid cellphones that do not require identification," and to throw the phone out when no longer needed.

— Cellphone carriers too readily share users’ calls and movements with law enforcement, even without search warrants. Unlike some of its competitors, T Mobile refuses to divulge any data on its involvement in such date sharing with police. That is reason enough not to use T Mobile.

— The "Tor project … allows users to browse the Web anonymously."

– In one instance, GPS tracking was used for beneficial purposes, to find a robbed phone using the "find my phone" feature. A similar incident is recounted here.

What do you think of this mess?

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