No Safe Harbor: Personal Privacy

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TRAVIS MCCREA


Privacy is a funny issue for a lot of people, they are so willing to yield so much of their privacy to people who tell them it’s for “their safety,” yet will squawk like a chicken if they find out that their public posts to Twitter are being indexed by a company (or a government entity). I have found (and I think many already know this) that the general public is highly susceptible to fear mongers, and when they are told that something is bad or out to get them, they listen intently and then throw their arms up in the air not knowing exactly what is wrong, but that it is wrong and that they are against it. The government says that Homeland Security has to do full body scans of people as they try to board an airplane because it will protect from bad people getting on an aircraft and blowing it up, what they don’t tell you is that now every time you want to board an aircraft, someone gets to look at you naked.

I, myself, could be viewed as someone who treats his privacy with little regard online. You can do a quick Google search of “Travis McCrea” and find my phone number, full name, background, and if you search hard enough, some of my previous addresses. I also have a Gmail account which is operated by the “evil” Google Inc., hell I even have a Facebook page that lets almost anyone view my information. I do this because it was already out there, if I give my phone number to even a couple people online‚ I have pretty much committed it to the public domain. Since I already know that at that point someone who wants to harm me by obtaining my phone number, can already get it… I might as well make it easier for the good people who want to call me as well.

Here is the difference between Travis McCrea, and Joe Blow off the street when it comes to digital privacy: I know that everything I post online is viewable by the world. If I don’t want the world to see it, rarely do I ever even say it online (not even in private). However, I do still maintain the tools necessary to facilitate a private conversation if I must… and I do use them. When I use tools that I expect to be anonymous, I will use TOR (which isn’t exactly privacy guarding either). As much random stuff I search, I have never found a need to use haystacking or anything like that… I use https://www.google.com and that makes me feel good enough.

Most people will point out as well that I trust Google a lot, and I am a self-labeled Google fanboy and I am okay with that. I can see the argument of, “sure you can trust Google now, but can you trust them in 30 years?”, but I also am sure that Google understands that putting the interests of its customers over the interests of governments or other corporations is a better business model. Yes, they have made calls in the past that I have disapproved of… but again it’s an understanding: I accept that Google gives me cool free stuff, if I am willing to give them anonymous pieces of information about myself. Google honestly does not even have the man-power to read .001% of the emails that are sent every day if it wanted to. It may turn data over to the police if subpoenaed, but they do the best job at reporting legal notices and government requests than any other major service provider I have seen. Even searches alone, who else are you going to trust with your data? Microsoft?

The biggest fear of corporations is that they sell your information to other corporations, or lose your information to hackers in a worst-case-scenario. The biggest fear of government is that they come to your house, take you away, erase all your evidence of being born, tell people you are a terrorist, and never give you a fair trial. I am not saying give full confidence to corporations either. Corporations have very little restrictions as to how they must handle the private information of its customers. They don’t HAVE to MD5 sum your passwords, or encrypt your personal data in their database‚ some do, just to protect their customers. Others don’t care. Some companies do things to try and help their users with simpler interfaces, and actually enable their customers to easily give up their privacy. I think this is what happened to Facebook: They had no intentions on being evil by making people’s information show up to everyone by default, they were simply making it easier for their members to find each other… however, their default settings put anyone who created an account at risk of potential employers and ex-girl/boyfriends stalking them.

The main point, is that it’s very important for people to understand exactly what is happening with their information. Read through the privacy agreement, and if it’s in legalese I encourage you to email the website, company, etc. and ask them to explain your rights, and what steps you can do to protect your privacy, and what steps they take to protect it. Twitter does a very good job of explaining each line of legalese in plain English if you read their privacy policy.

Remind your friends how important it is to protect their privacy, and when you hear people spouting off about “national security‚” ask them if they mind if you go look through their underwear drawer due to “national security.” It’s your patriotic duty to stand up against a government who treats its citizens as the enemy, and say that you will not accept it anymore.

Fight the fight, be a patriot of our digital revolution.

THIS STORY WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON THE AUTHOR'S WEBSITE AT http://travismccrea.com Nsh4.png