Thursday, March 1, 2012

privacy anyone?

Through a friend of a friend I know somebody who Google’s everyone. How does that translate? Well basically, if during conversation, a happenstance reference to someone should arise and said acquaintance had not attended the mentioned persons wedding --that will likely trigger a search engine. And while I find it altogether humorous, it scares me as well.

And so I decided to Google myself. To my amazement, there is an abundance of me. And we all do the same stuff. We blog, we link, we network, and we post bad pictures of ourselves. In an instant I learned as much about strangers as I know about my loud colleague in the office next door.

I suppose that to many people, especially those heavy into IT, this is business as usual. No big deal. And though I could probably make that point too, I fear that I would miss the big picture in the process of my attempt.

Coinciding with Google’s announcement to streamline their privacy practices today and amid questions about how much Apple knew before it was reported in The New York Times that users of Apple’s mobile devices may have allowed apps on their iPhones, iPads or iPods that can gain access to their contact lists, without clear permission, or access their pictures, without a clear disclosure, a good deal of criticism has been publicized regarding privacy issues. And not just here, but also abroad, Fox News and various outlets are reporting an uproar over the handling of search results, the compilation of data and even concerns about Street View mapping. What will become of this is hard to say, but Google and Apple are big targets.

Lost under the radar, however, is the already in place disregard to our daily privacy that we have grown accustomed to and either brush off or accept.

As for me, sometimes I pose or smile into security cameras that I pass by on a daily basis, especially when their locations are meant to be deceptive or they are hidden behind tinted glass. And even though I have the GPS locator on my phone set to 911 only, I am quite confident that I’m tracked regularly by my bread crumb of activities and triangulation. Employers track us, marketers track us, parents, spouses, plus hackers and creeps can track us too. And I presume that eavesdropping will occur on most unsecured wireless networks. I suppose the only tools left at my disposal are my settings, changing of passwords and my attention to at risk pathways.

But the allure of technology is a magic potion and we are easily lulled into a stupor by its utility. We hardly ever miss a call. We connect across networks, communities, countries and continents in an instant. We can do it from our homes, offices, cafĂ©’s, or the front seat of our cars before heading into Dunkin Donuts. We download books in a flash. We play multiple games with multiple players. We text, we share, we post, we comment, we search, we plan, we bank and we rely on our gadgets.

Our gadgets though only have a vested interest in efficiency. And that is why I cringe when we don’t pay attention to privacy. No one cares about your privacy if you don’t—it’s lost in a click.

Yet I am continuously reminded that evidently we don’t care and so maybe Google, Apple or anyone else can have at the taking. On any given day, and particularly last Tuesday, I can overhear a railroad passenger’s conversation with a registrar office well enough to plainly know his name, D.O.B., Social Security number, cell number and home address. And I didn’t flinch when, while making a call, I asked a business associate ‘how are you?’ and the reply was, ‘good, I’m taking a s#!+’ (and obviously taking pride in always being connected). Akin to that, while using the men’s room at a conference center, it wasn’t the first time I began to wonder if the person sidling next to me at the urinal was holding his Smartphone at an odd angle because he forgot his reading glasses or if he was playing around in camera mode.

The big picture beckoned is that there is someone scarier than a Facebook addict who wants to Google everyone. And that is a lost-his-own-privacy executive who may one day be standing next to me, PDA in one hand, taking a pee with the other and perhaps gets an idea to do more than just Google everyone, if you know what I mean.

© 2012 Christopher’s Views