A Take About Online Privacy

Recently, there has been a lot of noise regarding online privacy. Yes, people becoming concerned and stuff like that. Privacy advocates (I actually tried to check the definition of advocate before I continued, just to be sure), Privacy activists, Tech Blogs, and so on. All of theme keeping tabs with famous websites and companies (e.g. Google, Yahoo, Microsoft) about how they handle and collect information about their users/customers/consumers. I get the point they are trying to make. However, the problem is that the media and activists are giving so much hype about this and stressing it way too much. Really.

I’ve always kept tabs with almost every information I post on the internet and what I do on the internet. Honestly, most of them are things I don’t mind lying around there. Not that they aren’t personal or whatever, but I regard them as common information, or rather, information I would actually share to anyone I’d meet.

Most people should know my Birthday. I mean, really, no matter how hard you keep it as a secret it will still be revealed. It’s December 26 by the way, and I have a few things on my Wishlist that you might want to consider buying me as a gift. Thanks. Even my mother’s maiden name! For god’s sake! I mean, simple things like that are things that can easily be researched! As a side note, I would want to tell websites and companies out there to actually stop using “what’s your mother’s maiden name?” question for recovering passwords. Really. “What’s your father’s middle name?” would be a tougher question. Or, “Who was the first person you had sex with?”, or maybe, “Who’s your bestfriend in elementary?” (where the latter is an actual question for my banking login).

Anyways, I still wonder why people why people are too concerned about online privacy? I mean, GET A LIFE!!! If you share too much on the internet and that you are way concerned about it, it just means you are too much attached to it! Real people I know don’t share much on the internet. They upload a few pictures, post a few things as their status, and so on. Most significantly, they don’t really post any (if not a few) personal information on the internet. Not their address, not their birthdate, not what their phone number is, and so on.

If ever they shared something, it will be things they feel ok to share to anyone (and by anyone they meant EVERYONE). Same with me. You may see me share stuff about me quite a lot, but that’s because I’m fine with that. I don’t mind people seeing pictures and information about me (well, aside form slanderous or simply stupid stuff. NO I WON’T LET YOU SEE THOSE). Honestly, I have fine tuned my Facebook privacy very well to suite my sharing quite well but keeping things away from people I don’t want them to see such stuff.

But, the main point I would want to put across is that we shouldn’t really post something on the internet if we don’t certain people to see things we don’t want them to see. Because, as soon as something leaves your house, it is somewhat no longer your property. As soon as it is sent to server of another person, they can do anything with it (with as much legal right as they could, that you agreed upon when visited the site, created an account, and posted it).

It doesn’t matter if they shouldn’t be doing that and if it’s bad business practice, the point is that YOU SHOULD BE RESPONSIBLE OF WHAT YOU POST ONLINE. Not the people who handle them. Since you posted them to their website, it means you have waived them of any responsibility in handling that information (unless of course they EXPLICITLY tell that they will be responsible of that information). I can actually quote a site policy I employ to my website

We collect information about your access to our website and use them for the sole purpose of improving our services. All information we have will be kept for a certain period of time and will be purged from our logs and records automatically without any chance of retrieval. Information we record includes: your IP address, URL of the page you wanted to access, what you did on the page you accessed, what browser and OS (including their exact version number) you are using, geographic information (if available, and is resolved based on your IP address), what you clicked, how long you kept the page open before moving to a new page or closing the page, your screen resolution and color range, and your username (if you are logged in into a website that has a login system). We may also collect certain information during registration in websites that has login systems, such as your birthdate, and email.

We will NEVER sell or give away these information to third-parties under any circumstance. However, as required by law, we may release these information to any investigating party if they have acquired a warrant from their respective local law system. But, we will only recognize warrants issued by a court of law. Warrants not issued by a court of law will not be recognized.

Estimated length of time before information will be purged from the system ranged from 1 month up to 1 year. Certain information will be recorded only by the a certain section of the website, while certain sections of the website may recored everything. Not every batch information collected will be purged at the same time. Certain information might be kept longer, but will be de-associated to most information collected with it.

That’s a kinda extended summary version of our “private policy”. Yep, that’s an actual private policy we have. And yes, as you are reading this we have already collected information. Don’t like that? Well sorry, but we just did. However, that will not affect you in anyway. Since as stated “for the sole purpose of improving our services” is mainly checking how we van deliver the webpage properly and what’s the common browser our visitors use. We don’t use it for money. We’re satisfied with the simple ads we have. Revenue isn’t big deal with me. I do these stuff because I want to. Not because I want to earn from it.

So yeah. Let’s get back on track. Now after reading our “private policy” you should know that other websites employ the same scheme of private policy. We just made ours more understandable to everyone. However, Facebook as a pretty different privacy you should check. Even Microsoft and Google. You really should read things in the fine print. Really.

Now, outside of the internet, there are still things we should know.

  1. Establishments we go to collect information about us as we use their services. They collect what time we visited their store, what we wore when we went there, who were we with (if any), what we looked at, what we did while we are inside, what we bought, who we talked to, where in their premises we went to, and so on.
  2. Fine prints in insurance companies, banks, and so on, actually have things where we explicitly allow them to collect information about us for “improving their services”. And as it is also what their service offers.
  3. The police and court of law can get any information they want about anyone, as long as it is reasonable and can be used against them (or for them)
  4. Your calls are not safe. Your telephone company might be checking what’s happening in your call if they wish to. Same goes with your internet connection with your ISP.

So why should you be concerned about that? Well, because the way they collect information if almost the same how website collect information about people. Some are silently running in the background, while some can get it by force or by law. So, we should also be concerned by things we “share” outside of the internet. Especially when you talk to people on the road, your friends, and so on. Not because you think they won’t do anything with what you share, means you should share it to them. Who knows? Maybe the one you talked to yesterday is someone who was sent to spy you? Or maybe, that building you entered yesterday use information it collected to tell fashion designers what are the new trends that are seemingly popping. And so on.

No really one know what happens to information we share (or are collected from us by will or by force) to others. Most of the time, what we read in their fine print is what actually happens, because they should follow that so that they won’t get screwed. But, you should be more afraid of the things that don’t have fine prints about things. Why? Because you won’t know what will happen, plus, you won’t know what will be collected, when, how, and why. If you ask me, I’d rather share my stuff over Facebook, than to actually tell it to someone randomly across the street (why would I do that anyways?). Because over Facebook, if they screw up and don’t do as to what they said, then I can as them politely to follow. Or else, I might do some brute force. You know what I mean.

Thus, no matter how hard we try to patch a leak, there will always be a leak. So instead of trying to prevent it, why not think of a way to make that leak into an opportunity? Right? You have the power to control what you should give away. But, you also have the power to make things much better if things you gave away didn’t go as planned.

I think I didn’t have a powerful statement here, but I think I did make my point evident. I may not have a definite position in this argument, but at least I had my take on it.

And my take is that:

Nothing is completely private, neither is something completely un-private. Thus, we should know what and how we should release information. We have the control, we just have to use it.

It doesn’t make much sense, but in a positive note, Privacy isn’t the issue, it’s more about who shares and to whom it’s being shared. What ever that information is, isn’t much of the importance.

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