Are you clueless about your online privacy?

Back in the day when the internet was born and I leapt on it as this cool new thing, I read everything I could get my hands on from computer scientists and other thought leaders at the time.

An area that was extensively explored in white papers and articles were the benefits of location and presence awareness and how profound it would be when both of these could be achieved.

In these early internet years, presence awareness has been relatively easy to deliver by application service providers — your ‘presence’, for example, is shown whenever you sign on to instant messaging, Skype, Facebook, Google apps, etc. — but location awareness has been really hard to do…until now when GPS is increasingly being built in to mobile phones and even digital cameras.

Much has been written about Google Latitude — yet another free service by Google that lets you see your friends’ locations and status messages and share yours with them — and I know several people who immediately signed up without any thought of the security or privacy implications.

Yes, you can opt-out and hide your location from your friends (but maybe not from Google?), but most people I interact with, who’ve signed up for Latitude, are participating in numerous places online and leaving digital breadcrumbs all over the place, and now can be easily located.

While I understand the benefits of location connections with my friends and colleagues who are also big online users, I’m finding myself increasingly reluctant to participate in certain online venues. No one I know can possibly stay appraised of privacy or terms of service on offerings like these — especially since they can change both without notifying users — and organizations like Google and Facebook don’t reveal their competitive advantages on data collection and use and thus you and I don’t have a complete picture. For the most part, we’re all pretty clueless about our online privacy.

Watch the short video below of Mike Arrington of TechCrunch quizzing Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook about mobile and privacy…and the humma-humma Zuckerberg does when it comes to clarity around this issue. If this doesn’t give you pause, then just ignore this whole post and go about your business.

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  1. Ben Kepes on February 6, 2009 at 6:53 pm

    Funny – I watched the Zuckerberg vid and, other than surprise at the fact that Mark was wearing a tie, there was nothing that really concerned me. Privacy, and the services that “stretch” it are a continuum – location awareness isn’t that far a leap from ststus updates (as Mark pointed out)

    But maybe I’m just being naive….

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Podcasting hit the mainstream in July of 2005 when Apple added podcast show support within iTunes. I'd seen this coming so started podcasting in May of 2005 and kept going until August of 2007. Unfortunately was never 'discovered' by national broadcasters, but made a delightfully large number of connections with people all over the world because of these shows. Click here to view the archive of my podcast posts.