Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Worried about privacy? It's not so easy to ditch an online service with "stickiness"

So are people really going to “give up Google” right after Leap Day?  It sounds like a child’s giving up an imaginary playmate, which I once had to do (“giving up Back!”)

Cecilia Kang has a front page story in the Washington Post Feb. 28 on the worries of some “heavily invested users”, who feel jeopardized when on March 1 Google starts sharing information across all its own applications, with its “unified privacy settings”, which will lead to much more comprehensive profiles of users, especially their search habits. “This stuff is important,” the company says. The link is here

The Post’s online caption calls it a “hairy choice,” looking for a bit of Nair (maybe to make way for gold latex body paint). 

To me, this makes no difference, as I am the only person who uses my computers.  But I’ve noticed that ads on most major sites appear to be related to my surfing habits, the contents of recent blog postings (everybody sends me advertisements for online reputation companies and eldercare issues), and particularly my location when I travel.  (This was really true when I went to Texas in November.  Everybody knew where my travel laptop was. )

The geo-location a bit worrisome, if someone knows you aren’t home.  But generally I’m not too concerned.  All of my postings are public (whether on blogs, Facebook or Twitter). None are restricted.   And none contain personal information in the usual sense.  None would create a problem if I were a Google or a Facebook employee.  But they might create a real issue if I had taken on a second career as a life insurance agent, tax advisor, or financial planner.  And a “fiction work” that I posted online (it was fiction) got me in real trouble as a substitute teacher back in 2005. 

As the article notes, online service providers make it difficult or “sticky” to leave.  You can convert from Blogger to Wordpress, or to a flat site, but you might lose all your search engine placement. (This can be an issue if a blogger decides to join forces with other investors or larger companies.)  It’s not so easy to leave Facebook; you can’t transfer “friends”.  You can’t get out of a cell phone contract too easily, either.

Electronic Frontier Foundation has an article on how to remove your YouTube and Search history, here

Was it Eric Schmidt who said, "If you have something to hide, maybe you shouldn't be doing it". Tell this to the fictional characters of "Days of our Lives" (except Will).

Below: notice, on Feb. 29, Mozilla started inviting users to try "Do Not Track"

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