Gene Expression

You have no privacy

How Privacy Vanishes Online. Pretty banal actually. Social networking has really changed things. As I’ve said before I’m fascinated by the large number of people who, even those who want to be anonymous, enter in their real email addresses when leaving a comment. There seems a default “trust unless you shouldn’t trust” setting, so we naively input our information assuming it isn’t being mined by someone. In any case, a bigger issue in the future I think will be stupid government officials who scan up documents which they shouldn’t scan up. It’s happened a few times so far, but I think it’ll get worse in this decade.

Comments

  1. #1 melkor
    March 17, 2010

    You’re operating under the naive assumption that people enter their primary email for such confirmations rather than a dedicated spam collection point maintained by for example Yahoo, Hotmail or Google.

    I enter an email address in such online forms all the time, but it doesn’t link to an email I actually monitor unless I’ve some particular reason to trust the site with primary access to me.

  2. #2 razib
    March 17, 2010

    melkor, what are you talking about? the only stuff about email above is the fact that people use their facebook associated email. i know this because i often look people up and their public profile often aligns up well with the IP address.* either clarify, or actually read what i’m saying.

    * there are two primary reasons i look people up. if they’re being assholes and personalizing an argument, in which case it is useful to know who they are. or, if i want to evaluate their credentials/authority when they’re making a technical/specialist argument.

  3. #3 XiXiDu
    March 17, 2010

    Fascinating that somebody who’s blogging under his real name is talking about staying anonymous. Why would I want to be anonymous? Because somebody could look up what I said? So? If I said something stupid and changed my mind, then they are stupid if they don’t look any further. And what else I say is my opinion after all. Just staying anonymous because somebody could use it against you in some setting, because it could have negative consequences, is like not visiting Disney Land for that terrorists could blow it up. Just because there are morons out there I’m not going to hide. The morons will be empowered by acting with regard to their presence, or a possible future.

    Anyway, I believe that there’ll arise negative consequences from being anonymous in future. Imagine, 20 years into the future, if somebody is going to look you up and finds nothing about you. How’s that going to look like? You’ll pretty much be forced to show some presence, as long as you’re not hiding in meatspace as well.

  4. #4 JohnV
    March 17, 2010

    Clearly, XiXiDu, the trick is to have one online persona utilizing some level of anonymity that accurately reflects your beliefs and a second online persona, making use of your true identity, that espouses the beliefs necessary to get (or not lose) a job.

  5. #5 Bob Badour
    March 17, 2010

    I have never expected privacy online. I don’t expect privacy when I walk thru town or shop for groceries or drive down the road or stand outside in my own yard in sight of the highway. I grew up in a house with a party line so I don’t even expect privacy when I talk on the phone.

    Where I expect privacy, I have it.

    Online anonymity is a delusion. Botnet operators who send commands thru double proxies have been tracked down.

    What I don’t get is why some folks pursue a lack of identity. Everyone from notorious sock puppeteers to the countless women who choose nicks like MomOf.

    ::shrug::

  6. #6 dev
    March 17, 2010

    “What I don’t get is why some folks pursue a lack of identity.” It’s not a lack of identity, it’s a separate identity, in order to put a bit of distance between one’s primary online activities and other more peripheral activities. Razib discussed this general issue of pseudonymity vs. anonymity about a month ago.

    I am more aware than most people of the difficulty of maintaining a truly anonymous online identity. But I have no compelling interest in concealing my identity from Razib. (As he notes, he can track people down via IP addresses, and I’m not complicating his job by using the TOR network or other countermeasures.) I’m simply interested in obfuscating my publicly-visible alternate identity a bit from readers of this blog, so that at least to first order my comments on GNXP don’t affect the online reputation I’ve built up under my primary identity.

    In this regard, it’s possible that one reason people include their real email addresses in submitting “anonymous” (really pseudonymous) comments is that they don’t care if Razib has that information, as long it’s not displayed on the publicly-visible comments page.

  7. #7 dev
    March 17, 2010

    “In any case, a bigger issue in the future I think will be stupid government officials who scan up documents which they shouldn’t scan up.” Apropos of this general problem, here is my helpful tip of the day: Anyone posting redacted documents on the web should read this helpful guide from the folks at the NSA. It can’t help with other problems like inadvertently putting confidential files in web folders that turn out to be publicly readable, but it should at least be of some use to people trying to scrub word processing documents for public release.

  8. #8 Tom Bri
    March 18, 2010

    I make a small effort to conceal my identity. Anyone who was really interested could easily track down who I am. Few will bother. A potential employer will not find much to condemn me.

    But a fairly prominent person has the same name. Why should I taint his reputation with my somewhat extreme political views? Google my name and a slew of links to mathematics comes up, none of it related to me.

  9. #9 Rob
    March 18, 2010
  10. #10 Bob Badour
    March 19, 2010

    dev,

    It may be true that some folks use a single sock puppet for pseudonymity. I was not including them among “notorious sock puppeteers”, and the myriad women who use MomOf[insert generic here] actively choose to relinquish their identity to their children.

    I still don’t get why some folks choose a lack of identity.

  11. #11 XiXiDu
    March 24, 2010

    Employers seem to be the real terrorists. They limit free speech by making you conceal your beliefs, for that what you say could have negative consequences regarding your job. People do not stay away from visiting Disneyland because Al Qaeda might blow it up. But if it was a proscribed taboo on the job market, nobody would go…