Monday, 27 February 2012

Is There Such A Thing As Online Privacy?

Keeping our private details away from prying eyes has never been more important — or difficult. With a raft of proposed legislation that threatens to spy on our everyday use of the internet and the recent allegations of cybertracking by Google and Facebook, you've got to wonder if it's possible at all to have our world wide web cake and eat it. Actually...


Mobile phone browsing


The recent furore over iphone app Path uploading users' address book data without the users' knowledge has triggered a wave of related posts on tech blogs and newspapers about the safety of browsing via your mobile phone, and whether or not it's a good idea to use either Google or Facebook because of their allegedly lax attitude to users' privacy.


The fact is, apps exist to make money for their makers by either advertising stuff or tracking your browsing history and location to enable targeted advertising. The fewer you have and use, the better.


Social Media Milking


I've pointed out before that the big search engines and social media websites exist to farm us for our personal data and sell it on to marketing companies. That's why they do it. And I dare say that the only reason they would ever object to conniving with the authorities at spying on us is the fear that we'll all abandon them in order to protect what privacy we have left. It's creepy when they can track your browsing habits to such a degree they can tell if a woman is pregnant before she announces it. However, we actually need the cookies they send to our PCs to log in to services and to enable convenience online. You can set your PC to refuse to accept them or clear them after every online session but that would mean logging in again every time you go online. Is it worth the aggro?


If you are concerned about protecting your online privacy, see these links from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.


Six Tips to Protect Your Search Privacy


How to Remove Your YouTube Viewing and Search History Before Google's New Privacy Policy Takes Effect


Our ISPs have got our backs


The drafters of the ACTA trade agreement, which has been referred to the European Court of Justice, have run into trouble not just with digital activists and the Pirate Party, they've also upset EuroISPA, a trade body representing 1,700 European ISPs. One of the main reasons is,


Some governments, including the UK's, are already committed to passing laws ordering the cutting off of households in which a member is accused of illegal file-sharing.

Do that often enough and their businesses will suffer. No wonder they're up in arms. Make no mistake, now that the fear-mongering cat is out of the bag, ACTA is in serious trouble but it's not dead yet and the need for increased security for the 2012 Olympics is already being used as an excuse to bring in increased online surveillance. We can't afford to rest on our laurels; let's be vigilant and ready to join in protests, sign petitions and lobby our representatives until they learn that we the people are not going to stand for any further erosion of our right to freedom online and in real life.

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