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Privacy

Did We Lose the Privacy War? 521

Posted by Soulskill
from the no-now-finish-your-cheerios-and-straighten-your-shirt dept.
eihab writes "I've been a fanatic about my online privacy for the last few years. I've been using NoScript and blocking Google Analytics, disabling third-party cookies, encrypting IM and doing everything in my power to keep data-miners at bay. Recently, I've been feeling like I'm just doing too much and still losing! No matter what I do, I know that there's a weak link somewhere, be it my ISP, Flash cookies, etc. I've recently gotten AT&T U-Verse, who, according to their privacy statement, will be monitoring my TV watching habits for advertisement purposes. I'm extremely annoyed by that, yet I love the service so much and I don't think I can cancel it. I just can't take this anymore. I have nothing to hide, but I do not want to be profiled and become member #5534289 in a database somewhere that records everything I do. I know I'm not that interesting to anyone, but the idea of someone being able to pull up everything about me with a simple SQL SELECT statement and a couple of JOINS makes me cringe. One of the reasons I hate data mining is that data security is not understood and almost non-existent at a lot of places. Case in point: I changed my life insurance two years ago, and the medical firm that conducted my health screening was broken into and computers with non-encrypted hard drives and patients' data were stolen. That medical firm didn't really need my SSN, but then again neither did AT&T when I signed up for U-Verse. Am I just too paranoid? Is privacy dead? Should I just give up and accept the fact that privacy is not the norm anymore (like Facebook's founder recently said) or should I keep fighting the good fight for my privacy?"
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Did We Lose the Privacy War?

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  • Damn...If it wasn't so private maybe I'd have heard about it and fought...

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @12:48PM (#31156320) Journal
    I am member #5534289 you insensitive clod!
  • Hobby (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Dan East (318230) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @12:49PM (#31156334) Homepage Journal

    Everyone needs a hobby. If you enjoy playing cloak and dagger, then let that be your hobby. Otherwise invest your time in more worthwhile endeavors.

  • You surrendered. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by characterZer0 (138196) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @12:49PM (#31156336)

    'm extremely annoyed by that, yet I love the service so much and I don't think I can cancel it.

    You are agreeing to give up your privacy. You are not losing - you surrendered.

    • by delt0r (999393) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @12:56PM (#31156458)
      Thanks. Its not like there are not alternative ways to get your media, TV shows, movies or otherwise. The submitter has sold privacy for convenience. Convenience of mere entertainment no less. Privacy is not getting taken away, we are giving it up freely.
      • by poetmatt (793785)

        It's like the 4th/5th amendment: it's set up that if you do anything at all involving any topic, you basically give up those rights.

        It's not a good thing, but I'm not sure what decent alternative we have either. Clearly judicial and other governmental interests are in conflict in how privacy comes together. They just don't want to acknowledge it.

        There was another slashdot article about this [slashdot.org] - basically government has an interest in encouraging all of this tracking, because they can profit from the informati

      • by Znork (31774) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @01:43PM (#31157286)

        Its not like there are not alternative ways to get your media, TV shows, movies or otherwise.

        Indeed. Most 'media providers' on the net certainly don't seem to be asking for SSN...

        And in cases where it's hard to avoid some tracking, like social networking sites, just sprinkle freely with sockpuppet identities to screw with the tracking. If you're worried about leakage between browser profiles or users, create virtual machines to run multiple virtual identities. Create your own happy little multiple-personality collective.

        Those with the idea that they want to track 'everything' often seem to miss how much crap 'everything' actually contains. And while they can attempt to record as much as they can, they can neither make you tell the truth, nor the whole truth, nor shut you up once you wander off into fantasyland.

        And hey, best of all, polluting the data really seems to piss the data mining junkies off.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by XB-70 (812342)
        Offer to live at other people's homes and pay cash for any and all services. Move monthly. Buy fake ID. Get psychologically weirded out. Commit suicide because you are such a social leper that you have no one to talk to about the latest gossip about the stars.
      • Re:You surrendered. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by curunir (98273) * on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @02:50PM (#31158366) Homepage Journal

        The poster's problem is that he's going about protecting his privacy the wrong way. Trying to hide all personal information is a losing proposition, as he's noticed. The best way to protect your privacy is to drown the real bits in a sea of fake information.

        If AT&T wants to monitor his viewing habits, write a script that will chose programming at random and switch the U-Verse box to that station while he's not watching it himself. Web analytics and ad servers are equally easy to poison with fake data. The health insurance records are a bit harder, but that's an area where we have more rights and is easier to push for laws that protect privacy.

        If enough people did this, data mining would be almost worthless since you couldn't get reliable results. Of course that's a pipe dream, since not enough people have the technical acumen to do this, but those of us who can should be doing our part.

    • Re:You surrendered. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Shakrai (717556) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @12:57PM (#31156462) Journal

      You are agreeing to give up your privacy. You are not losing - you surrendered.

      Indeed. I like his whining about them not needing his SSN. Then why did you give it to them? Phone and cable service is regulated in most states. I've yet to read state regulations that allow them to deny you service you refuse to fork over the SSN. If they refuse to give you service without the SSN then contact your state regulators and open a case.

      I did this here in New York with Verizon and the public service commission compelled them to turn on my service within two business days of my filing a complaint. All they can do is ask you for a deposit -- the law usually requires them to return it to you after a certain number of timely payments (usually a year's worth) have been made.

      • by godrik (1287354) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @01:32PM (#31157084)

        As an alien living in this US, I find this SSN situation ridiculous. Everybody is going to say that you should not give your SSN to ANYBODY. Yet everybody is asking for it...

        It seems to me that people are schizophrenic about SSN number. Is it a public unique identifier of a tax payer or a secret information ?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by b4dc0d3r (1268512)

        This is misunderstood a lot. Companies are not allowed to require your SSN for service. They often ask for it, just to be able to track you down if you fail to pay. (alert: USA-centric info follows). The loophole is, most companies are not required to offer service to everyone. So they can refuse to provide service to you without explanation (usually "incomplete application" or something similar), while technically following the law. That's why there's usually no state (or fed) regulation which allows

    • by shentino (1139071)

      You surrender only because you cannot win.

      Try NOT agreeing to give up your privacy. Life will get so difficult and doing business will be such a pain in the ass that you regret it right away... _

      And if you don't, well, there's always gitmo.

    • You are agreeing to give up your privacy. You are not losing - you surrendered.

      Doesn't he know that AT&T's motto is, "Your World Delivered... to the NSA"

  • There is nothing you can do to preserve your privacy while remaining in society. Privacy is dead and gone. The best thing you can do is work for a company which gathers private information on the richest and most powerful. If you don't want to help reduce privacy, then you are part of the problem and that is why you are being watched.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vsxxsrn2Tfs [youtube.com]

  • by socsoc (1116769) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @12:50PM (#31156352)

    I'm extremely annoyed by that, yet I love the service so much and I don't think I can cancel it.

    Then you answered your own question. If you continue to use the service, you're giving them positive reinforcement that their activities are acceptable.

  • by StripedCow (776465) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @12:50PM (#31156354)

    It seems that the only solution is to add so much noise that data miners will have a really hard time filtering out the real data.

    Here [nyu.edu] is a start.

    • This.
      Black-hats are a group that need to avoid getting found so it is good to look at how they do it. Setting up multiple personas to have 'scripts' to go on that data miners grab hold of. And the other way is to make a lot of random meaningless noise. Lastly you give as little real information as possible.

      You need to approach it from all angles. You don't necessarily need to give up your favourite w/e u-verse so long as you do other things.
  • by RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) <taiki@cUMLAUTox.net minus punct> on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @12:51PM (#31156362)

    Given how interconnected our world is, if you want to participate, you have to do it in public. You have to connect to someone else's machine, hook up to someone else's fiber, talk to someone who you can't immediately trust, and you have to do it in the open.

    That is to say, SSL, TOR, NoFlash, NoScript etc, still don't have a place in our lives as geeks. Just, forget privacy.

    Besides, I think we live in a world where we have obscurity through density, instead of obscurity through privacy. Billions of people on this earth, nearly a billion of them connected to the 'net. Embrace it. Eventually, if enough personal data gets out there, it may become worthless to mine it due to the sheer volume available.

    • Eventually, if enough personal data gets out there, it may become worthless to mine it due to the sheer volume available.

      Wouldn't that be like saying Gold would become worthless if we had it in large volumes?

      Does it not still have many applicable uses?

      Personal data mining will continue - it will only become more automated.

      • by ShakaUVM (157947) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @01:02PM (#31156534) Homepage Journal

        >>Personal data mining will continue - it will only become more automated.

        Mr. Shepard: Our records indicate that you have been dead for the last two years. Have you ever considered looking into Asari burial shrouds? Our burial shrouds are of the finest quality, hand-woven on the Asari homeworld by skilled artisans. You'll appreciate the difference the next time you die!

      • by shentino (1139071)

        Yes.

        Gold WOULD become worthless if we had it in large volumes.

        Rarity is what MAKES it valuable. Ditto for diamonds, silver, and any other precious thing.

        There's something about having something that someone else doesn't...

    • by PhilHibbs (4537) <snarks@gmail.com> on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @01:01PM (#31156520) Homepage Journal

      So what we have in lieu of privacy is occasional access to anonymity. You can maintain that anonymity for a little more of your life for a little more effort, but maintaining it 24/7 for everything you do is increasingly difficult.

    • by Sir_Lewk (967686) <sirlewk@nOSpAm.gmail.com> on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @01:02PM (#31156540)

      That is to say, SSL, TOR, NoFlash, NoScript etc, still don't have a place in our lives as geeks.

      Speak for yourself, not all geeks share your defeatism.

    • by malloc (30902) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @01:11PM (#31156702)

      Besides, I think we live in a world where we have obscurity through density, instead of obscurity through privacy. Billions of people on this earth, nearly a billion of them connected to the 'net. Embrace it. Eventually, if enough personal data gets out there, it may become worthless to mine it due to the sheer volume available.

      Panopticlick [eff.org] wants to disagree [eff.org].

      That, and "billions" / "sheer volume" are meaningless in the face of computers processing billions of cycles a second. The whole point of data mining is software can find neat correlations and connections that a human never could. You are not hidden in the billion bits of data.

    • by kaoshin (110328)

      "You have to connect to someone else's machine, hook up to someone else's fiber, talk to someone who you can't immediately trust, and you have to do it in the open."

      That is to say, you didn't zombie someone elses machine, hijack someone elses connection, impersonate another individual or conduct your activities through covert channels.

    • by BlackCreek (1004083) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @01:14PM (#31156750)

      Besides, I think we live in a world where we have obscurity through density, instead of obscurity through privacy. Billions of people on this earth, nearly a billion of them connected to the 'net. Embrace it. Eventually, if enough personal data gets out there, it may become worthless to mine it due to the sheer volume available.

      Sure. Until someone uses that to steal your identity, and all of a sudden you will need to prove to N different government, banking and credit institutions that you are not a fraudster.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by CodeBuster (516420)

      and you have to do it in the open.

      So use a false or constructed identity. This can be done to varying levels of quality and sophistication depending upon how much time and money you are willing to put into it. Will this prevent a determined adversary from penetrating your disguise? No, but it will make it too expensive for most commercial entities to consider and unless they have reason to doubt your credentials then it is likely that they will never see past the deception. This is the sort of basic tradecraft that intelligence agencies hav

  • by rebmemeR (1056120) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @12:52PM (#31156384)
    Every time you take some action to protect your privacy, someone does a +1 on your suspectability index in their database.
  • by spyrochaete (707033) <spyrochaete AT hyppy DOT zapto DOT org> on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @12:52PM (#31156394) Homepage Journal

    I've recently gotten AT&T U-Verse, who, according to their privacy statement, will be monitoring my TV watching habits for advertisement purposes. I'm extremely annoyed by that, yet I love the service so much and I don't think I can cancel it.

    If there is a privacy war it is a war of one. You know the chef is poisoning the soup but you find it too delicious to stop eating.

    Cancel your cable. War won.

  • If you really want to have privacy in the digital age the only winning move is not to play. The people in control of things want to endlessly analyze every single thing they can in order to better control and shape society to their will and it is too easy to get that data through computers.

    See: The Trap [wikipedia.org]

  • You can agree not to give the companies your social security number - at least here in Canada. There is some law regarding that information only be required to do credit checks, otherwise a company can't NOT give you service based on you retaining your info.

    You will have to give them some other piece of Identifying information though, but it doesn't have to be permanent. Usually an address works - my ISP and Mobile phone (as thats the only services I purchase) don't have any information on me besides my pho

    • by ducomputergeek (595742) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @01:23PM (#31156916)

      In the US, they want your SSN in order to run a credit check. Want to know where the real privacy problem is: credit. It's virtually everywhere. Want cable, they run a credit check. Go to a new dentist/doctor, they run a credit check. And then try reminding these businesses that by law they have to offer another way around it. By law, the only people you are supposed to give out your SSN to is the government for Social Security and tax purposes. No one else is supposed to have access to it. The credit system is broken and required by just about everyone these days.

      Oh, and god forbid you pay cash for everything and live within your means. I have 1 credit card, but I've carried a balance of a few hundred dollars for 3 months out of 10 years. Apparently that doesn't help your credit score. I paid cash for my last car and now drive "company" cars. Company provides my cell phone and cell card and I've always rented. Even then I've tended to pay the lease upfront just so I don't have to bother with it.

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @12:55PM (#31156438) Journal
    This amazing new drug from Pfizer called !Prozac, pronounced Not-Prozac. It has the complete opposite effect on a human body. !Prozac, when ingested by a normal human being, it will trigger multiple-personality-disorder. Now you can use one identity for your normal law-abiding activities without any concern about privacy and data mining etc. Then you can use the other identity for nefarious, criminal and/or shameful activities. Infact the other identify can ingest another dose of !Prozac and create another personality. Recursively! Your criminal personality A does not have to know what your shameful personality B is doing. Just look at the hoops people are willing to jump through just to get prOn!
  • by jgreco (1542031) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @12:56PM (#31156442)
    It's probably a good fight to fight, but remember it'll keep getting harder. I was connected via VPN last night (all IP connectivity except the VPN itself runs over the VPN) from a hotel. Pulled up Google Maps to look up some local destinations. It offered me the option to use Firefox's location services. Curious, I let it, and despite being logged in via VPN, it accurately pulled up my location to within a few hundred feet. Still not exactly sure what it's doing to figure that out, but boy, that's scary...
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by icebraining (1313345)

      Firefox uses Google Location Services. From their privacy policy:

      If you allow a website to get your location via this service, we will collect, depending on the capabilities of your device, information about the wifi routers closest to you, cell ids of the cell towers closest to you, and the strength of your wifi or cell signal. We use this information to return an estimated location to the Firefox browser and the Firefox browser sends the estimated location to the requesting website. For each request sent

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      It offered me the option to use Firefox's location services. Curious, I let it, and despite being logged in via VPN, it accurately pulled up my location to within a few hundred feet. Still not exactly sure what it's doing to figure that out, but boy, that's scary...

      I'm not sure why you are surprised. Now, I haven't worked in IP networking for a while, but I don't see how a VPN would have any effect on what you did.

      Lets say the termination point for your VPN is a server at your house. IP A.B.C.D
      You connect

  • Sure they can see what you are watching but they don't care about you or what you watch. You are only one in millions. They are interested in the overall trends of what the millions are watching. So relax, you're just one grain of sand on the beach.

    Unless of course you have a vengeful ex somewhere.
  • by t33jster (1239616) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @12:59PM (#31156492)

    I know I'm not that interesting to anyone, but the idea of someone being able to pull up everything about me with a simple SQL SELECT statement and a couple of JOINS makes me cringe.

    Actually, we've written a stored procedure to determine whether or not you're interesting.

    EXECUTE IS_INTERESTING(5534289);

    Very interesting indeed.

  • You have no privacy, none. Any hacker, any private investigator, any stalker, can access your data from thousands of private or public databases. If you are jewish then the neo-nazi's probably already know where you live. If you voted for Bush the lefties already know who you are and where you live. If you disagree with how I think on privacy, I could find out where you live.

    And nothing stops me from creating a huge list of names and addresses, putting it into a database, and selling this list to advertises

    • by Yvanhoe (564877)
      In theory, I would be happy with the world knowing everything about me, because I could explain all the things I did and stood for, excuse for all the things I regret and have people expect the same of me. In practice, however, the world is full of jackasses who don't understand that and who will be your teacher, employer, doctor, neighbour, friend's friend, stepmother, etc...

      Now these jackasses lose privacy. Now if I am attacked on what I did, I can answer to them that they wrote "I love my poo!" ten yea
      • Leviticus 20:13:
        "If a man lies with a man...They must be put to death."

        This quote represents the mindset of a segment of the population. If they find out you have sex in a way they disagree with, they'd have no problem killing you and everyone like you, essentially genocide is made easier now that all the people who want to do it know exactly where the jews live, the gays, the blacks, and the liberals. Good luck staying alive if you are a minority.

    • by gad_zuki! (70830)

      >If you voted for Bush the lefties already know who you are and where you live.

      I can't exactly picture Al Franken and Russ Feingold sitting around smoking cigars and laughing while their servers churn away printing reports about opposition voters. Now Cheney on the other hand...

    • by jdgeorge (18767)

      Great post, as a rant. However, what I think it really means is:

      You are the only person who can effectively protect your own privacy. If you create permanent, or even transient, records of what you do by using conveniences such as credit cards, telephones, the Internet, or a diary, you are creating some potential (maybe likely) privacy exposures. Note that some activities have a much higher likelihood of exposing information you would rather not be publicly available.

      Just as in other aspects of your life, w

  • by davidwr (791652) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @01:00PM (#31156504) Homepage Journal

    Creating record "Soulskill5534289"
    Set "Slashdot Story Submission alias"="Soulskill"
    Set "PrivacyFanatic"=true
    Set "UsesNoScript"=true
    Set "BlocksGoogleAnalytics"=true
    Set "disables3rdPartyCookies"=true
    Set "UsesIM"=true
    Set "EncryptsIM"=true
    Set "blocksFlashCookies"=false
    Set "UsesATTUverse"=true
    Set "TimeStartedCurrentATTUverseSubscriptionRange"=1/1/2009-2/16/2010
    Set "ProbablyReadsPrivacyStatements"=true
    Set "LovesATTUverse"=true
    Set "EnjoysBeingProfiled"=false
    Set "WantsToBeMember5534289"=false
    Set "HasInflatedEgo"=false
    Set "HadInsuranceRecordsStolenTwoYearsAgo"=true
    Set "ChangedLifeInsurance2yearsAgo"=true
    Set "AsksSlashdot"=true
    Set "MoreNotes"='Ask Slashdot: Did We Lose the Privacy War? on Tuesday February 16, @11:44AM
    Posted by Soulskill on Tuesday February 16, @11:44AM
    from the no,-now-finish-your-cheerios-and-straighten-your-shirt dept.
    background: url(//a.fsdn.com/sd/topics/topicprivacy.gif); width:71px; height:53px; privacy
    eihab writes "I've been a fanatic about my online privacy for the last few years. I've been using NoScript and blocking Google Analytics, disabling third-party cookies, encrypting IM and doing everything in my power to keep data-miners at bay. Recently, I've been feeling like I'm just doing too much and still losing! No matter what I do, I know that there's a weak link somewhere, be it my ISP, Flash cookies, etc. I've recently gotten AT&T U-Verse, who, according to their privacy statement, will be monitoring my TV watching habits for advertisement purposes. I'm extremely annoyed by that, yet I love the service so much and I don't think I can cancel it. I just can't take this anymore. I have nothing to hide, but I do not want to be profiled and become member #5534289 in a database somewhere that records everything I do. I know I'm not that interesting to anyone, but the idea of someone being able to pull up everything about me with a simple SQL SELECT statement and a couple of JOINS makes me cringe. One of the reasons I hate data mining is that data security is not understood and almost non-existent at a lot of places. Case in point: I changed my life insurance two years ago, and the medical firm that conducted my health screening was broken into and computers with non-encrypted hard drives and patients' data were stolen. That medical firm didn't really need my SSN, but then again neither did AT&T when I signed up for U-Verse. Am I just too paranoid? Is privacy dead? Should I just give up and accept the fact that privacy is not the norm anymore (like Facebook's founder recently said) or should I keep fighting the good fight for my privacy?"'
    Close record.

    Create job "MineSoulskill5534289" "Compare record Soulskill5534289 against all known databases".
    Queueing job "MineSoulskill5534289". Monitor job queue for job status.

  • by gad_zuki! (70830) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @01:01PM (#31156516)

    Thank you for being a loyal AT&T U-verse customer! We have received your email and have created a trouble ticket for you automatically by monitoring your web postings. Please submit both a fresh semen sample and a two day old fecal sample so our customer service reps can verify your information and begin to investigate the issue.

    Thank you. AT&T Customer Service.

  • by Coopjust (872796) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @01:03PM (#31156554)
    It's not the war of privacy- it's the war of privacy vs. convenience.

    Facebook lets me keep in touch and aware of what my friends are doing. On the other hand, photos of me doing something that may reflect poorly on myself to an employer or other friends. I have pretty strict privacy settings on Facebook, but the reality is that something bad could easily be associated with my profile and seen by many before I could get it pulled.

    On the other hand, if I didn't share quite a bit of personal info on Facebook, I wouldn't even be aware when I was tagged in a photo.

    Today, people are accepting convenience at the sacrifice of some privacy. It's nice when I can call up the cable company and have them able to see what services I have, that I'm paying the bill, and the modem has the wrong DOCSIS file. On the other hand, I'm in a database that is easier to access than ever. I accept the sacrifice for convenience when I have to work with the cable company.

    Or credit cards. The majority of my purchases are now associated with my SSN in a database. The ability to track my spending and have some degree of purchase security is worth the sacrifice for me, so I choose to use electronic payment.

    So did we lose, giving up so much? On one hand, there are plenty of alternatives- I can buy online with a Visa Gift Card, registered to whatever name and address and purchased in cash. I can buy in cash in person. On the other hand, it's virtually impossible NOT to be in a database- even if you were to forego electricity, television, cable, etc., you'd still be in a government tax database. Someone I know got a letter last year saying "an IRS employee with your and a couple million other taxpayer documents, including your taxpayer ID number, full name, and address, lost their laptop. We'll try not to let it happen again. Here's a year of credit monitoring from one of the three bureaus, then you're on your own. Seeya!"

    So, yes, to some degree we lost. It's hard to avoid changes that the rest of society is fine with. Living like a hermit in a powerless shack in the woods is still possible, but for the average person, it definitely has been eroded.
  • If you interact with anyone who does not value privacy then your efforts are wasted. They can also expose your data. This is how facebook is able to know who your friends are even if you've never had a facebook account, or given them a single piece of data: they can mine the contact lists of people who have willingly exposed theirs. If you appear on any of them, facebook can start building a profile of you.

    Unless you're living without human contact, you will be profiled in a database somewhere.

  • by mi (197448) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @01:08PM (#31156646) Homepage

    If you can neither accept being the statistics (and you seem to admit, that you can't put together a rational explanation for your aversion), nor avoid it, try screwing them up...

    I share the same syndrome as you (although, perhaps, to a lesser degree), so this is, what I do:

    • Whenever asked for an address (except when I am expecting to receive something from the asker), I put in 0 Privacy Drive, MyTown, My State, MYZIP . The credit-card verification, in reality, needs only the ZIP-code, so for "billing address" this is enough. And for the vendors knowing my ZIP-code is enough to know, what they need to know for their stats-gathering efforts, but robs them of the ability to mail me their "exciting new specials" later.
    • When signing-up for a store "discount card", in addition to the address-trick above (you can use a bogus name too), be sure to either share the same card (the store will give you multiple ones with the same number) with as many relatives/friends as you can. First you (well, the one of you, who gets to the store on the lucky day) will get the bonus-points discounts faster, and second, the stats will be sufficiently skewed by the multiple people and their preferences. This is somewhat bad for the store, so I, instead, just exchange the cards with others. The store still knows, that the same person bought A and B, they just don't know, who that person really was.
    • When forced to give out e-mail address online, use the VendorName@yourdomain. If the vendor abuses your trust (such as by automatically adding you to their e-mailing list), you can block that single address. If you don't have your own domain (how come?) you could use yourself+ Vendorname@gmail.com for the same purpose (it is a shame, Yahoo! Mail does not support the sub-address [wikipedia.org]). Unfortunately, many vendors' sites — including highly prominent ones like the Enom-registrar reject the sub-addressing e-mails as "invalid" — the verifying regular expressions must be too complicated for the dumb programmer wannabees, employed by these companies. This is where having your own domain is very useful.
    • When asked for personal data in person, ask to explain, why the information is needed. If the clerk says, oh, I just need it for the computer, ask, if it can be avoided, or given later. For example, some companies insist on creating a full record, when you are just asking for a quote... Don't get confrontational — just explain, that you'll give your last name and address, when you pick their bid. If they insist, give the address as described in item 1...
  • by Xzzy (111297) <[sether] [at] [tru7h.org]> on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @01:08PM (#31156650) Homepage

    The thing that bugs me about being endlessly monitored and categorized is that it's never used to make my life better. It's only ever done to help some random corporation improve their profits by some fraction of a percentage.

    If being tracked watching a TV show for a full season resulted in them going "hey, thanks for being a loyal viewer, have this X as a token of our appreciation", I wouldn't complain so much. It wouldn't necessarily have to be a material bonus, in this day and age they could simply grant access to some kind of insider info website. The possibilities are only limited by imagination.

    But no. Everything I do gets dumped into a database and sold to the highest bidder. It serves no purpose but to try and get more money out of my wallet. Or if the government is involved, measure my odds of being a terrorist.

  • by Yossarian45793 (617611) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @01:09PM (#31156652)
    I can understand concerns about privacy when it comes to web browsing, but I don't get the fear about TV watching being tracked. I can't count the number of good TV shows that have been canceled because of bad ratings. Before Tivo existed, every time one of the shows I liked was canceled I wished that the TV network was tracking MY viewing habits instead of the unwashed masses who appear to like reality TV. Ever since I've had Tivo I always record all the shows I like and I'm happy that Tivo is collecting that information. Sometimes I even record and play back reruns (with the TV off) to positively affect the data for the shows I like.
  • Halfway off topic...

    Anyone know anything about Clear, the company trying to promote 4G WiMax for home internet and phone use? They seem to be advertising reasonable rates, and I would love to dump AT&T for my home phone and internet service as protest against their data sharing.

    Who owns them? Anyone have experience with the quality of their service? How much do they tack on in other fees and such that don't appear until the first bill?

    (Rates seem to be about the same for home use, but with Clear serv

  • by aussersterne (212916) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @01:10PM (#31156686) Homepage

    The division between the "public" and the "private" only matters when there is a world of hidden "private" lives (from which the public is excluded) and your public life (with private excluded) has to circulate within and be measured against other public lives (with private excluded).

    Once everyone's private becomes public, your own private is no more embarrassing or important than the "private" of most other people.

    The same thing applies to thinks like identity theft. The more these things become regarded as "public" rather than private, the more identity theft (a) will happen in volume and (b) will be commonly understood and mitigated through tools and common forms of recourse as a "regular" thing, and others won't hold you nearly so responsible for it.

    The reason, in other words, that privacy seems critical is that you assume that you're being marked by and held responsible for everything in your "private" world at a much deeper level than whatever is in your "public" world. Meanwhile, however, the rest of the world continues to increasingly dissolve the "private" into the public, with the inevitable shift that the "private" will be less and less something that people will be marked and/or held responsible for.

    Once your boss has a Facebook profile with pictures of their drunken weekend, and friends you with it, your own photos aren't so embarassing.
    Once the bank has so much identity theft going on that it's considered a cost of business and made easily reversible, your responsibility for protecting these "identity" records is diminished, as are any consequences of failing to do so.

    You've mistaken privacy as an inherent value and end in itself, rather than the means to an end (social success). Increasingly, social success lies along the very opposite path: being as open, public, and omni-visible/trackable as possible.

    So hold on to your privacy if you really love it, but realize that society is going to reward you for it less and less, and in fact may even punish you for it relative to much less private others.

    • by elucido (870205) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @01:14PM (#31156754)

      Leviticus 20:13:
      "If a man lies with a man...They must be put to death."

      If you are gay, and a jew, and you voted for Obama.... it's only a matter of time before the Christians who take Leviticus seriously find out where you live.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Bengie (1121981)

        I found this on the web. Great points to bring up.

        Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination... End of debate.

        I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God's Laws and how to follow them.

        1. Leviticus 25

  • U-verse tip... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Temkin (112574) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @01:14PM (#31156762)

    Temkin's u-verse tip... Turn off the TV using the native remote. The box stays on, and continues to stream for hours. It eventually turns off after a timeout of roughly 6 hours. But they can never be certain where I stopped watching. Just adds a little noise to their data.

  • ... from the intellectuals of yore:

    The intensity and complexity of life, attendant upon advancing civilization, have rendered necessary some retreat from the world, and man, under the refining influence of culture, has become more sensitive to publicity, so that solitude and privacy have become more essential to the individual; but modern enterprise and invention have, through invasions upon his privacy, subjected him to mental pain and distress, far greater than could be inflicted by mere bodily injury.

    — "The Right to Privacy", Warren and Brandeis, Harvard Law Review, Vol. IV, December 15, 1890.

  • I don't know about you guys but the best privacy I've found on the internet has more to do with no one really caring who you are, in which case I would prefer to be a number. Generally the internet, and media, and advertising may want to target you, but so far I'm just a number in all that data, and there isn't THAT much information publicly available on me, and to top it off, there is no reason to be interested in me. Just blend in with the crowd and your privacy is protected through obscurity.
  • by yar (170650) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @01:18PM (#31156824)

    Privacy is a nebulous concept, and it's possible that in some cases, we give up privacy, and in others, we don't. It's not necessarily a binary on/off thing that you either have or you don't. I don't believe that people who say that privacy is dead are correct; or if they are, it's a very narrow view of privacy. You still don't have people watching you in the shower, for example. (Hopefully...)

    Check out Daniel Solove's work- here's a good start.
    "I've got nothing to hide" and other misunderstandings of privacy
    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=998565&rec=1&srcabs=667622

    He's got some other interesting articles on the subject there, and some interesting books as well.

    There are still things you can fight for to protect privacy, even if you are giving up some facets. You can fight against ubiquitous surveillance, and continue to do the things that you're doing to protect your privacy. You can help make threats to privacy transparent, for example, by supporting groups like EFF.

  • That medical firm didn't really need my SSN

    Yeah, they did - unless they don't mind being paid. Trust me on this: your doctor couldn't give two whits less what ID# they use for you. The problem is that all government agencies and (to the best of my knowledge) all insurance companies use your SSN as a primary key, and unless the doctor collects the information, they're not getting paid beyond whatever you give them at the time of service.

  • Privacy is an illusion at best. At worst, it is an unachievable ideal that can never be attained.

    What we should be doing is making sure that people's information and identity and personal security are paramount in governmental roles.

    The problem is that progressive governance is opposite this. Government intrusion into every sector of a person's life is gaining all sorts of leverage into a person's private life.

    And as we expand government's role into intruding into peoples lives under the guise of "poor, opp

  • by mi (197448) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @01:25PM (#31156960) Homepage

    For ages our privacy was protected only by the others' ability to remember. A human being can only remember so many faces and facts about other people (and himself, for that matter)...

    Written records reduced the privacy immensely. Computers made the next giant leap. The only thing we can do is legislate, what the computers are allowed to memorize, but those would be merely human (as opposed to physical) laws and have serious limitations. Legal pitfalls will abound — an Evil Corporation may lease a server in a foreign locale [huffingtonpost.com] to keep your data, for example. WikiLeaks has shown the ways around various attempts to close access to information.

    Information wants to be free. Does not it?

  • by AP31R0N (723649) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @01:29PM (#31157018)

    Yes. Yes we are.

  • so somebody knows all the tv shows you watch. ok, so fucking what?

    the question is not that somebody has profiled your viewing habits, but that you consider such effluvia about you to be some sort of vital intrinsic part of your identity, worth protecting, worth fighting for, or worth even caring about

    i don't know about you, but when making a list of private facts about my identity, what i watch on tv doesn't even remotely enter the realm of relevancy. and no i'm not some "i don't watch tv" weirdo, i watch a lot of tv

    i just don't care if anyone knows what i watch, because i don't particularly consider that information about myself remotely valuable or interesting

  • Don't borrow money (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Animats (122034) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @01:57PM (#31157524) Homepage

    I get very little junk mail and very few promotional calls. This despite living in a good neighborhood in Silicon Valley.

    It may be because I don't have any debt. The big source of personal data is credit-reporting agencies, and since I have nothing but a bank credit card, they don't know much about me. I've obtained a copy of my credit report; they see my bank credit card and my cash bank account only. They have no info about brokerage accounts and mutual funds.

    I use a local ISP, Sonic, for DSL. They don't seem to give out any info about their customers. I don't have TV cable. I don't have any "affinity cards", other then a Costco membership. I belong to a few organizations, none of which seem to send junk mail. I have AdBlock and FlashBlock installed in Firefox.

    But I make no attempt to hide. My phone number is listed (and on the Do Not Call list). I'm registered to vote. My web sites have valid, non-anonymous WHOIS information. Yet I get almost no targeted advertising.

    So I think that much of the targeted information is coming via credit-reporting agencies.

    Spend less than you earn, and life will be good to you.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by dwye (1127395)

      > So I think that much of the targeted information is coming via credit-reporting agencies.

      Obviously, you also do not respond to charities received in the mail. My family used to do this, occasionally, and my parents are still inundated, even though they stopped responding after my father retired, over a decade ago.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by SleazyRidr (1563649)

        Oh, charities...

        When I was a kid I donated $2 to a charity for guide dogs. My parents still receive a letter every year asking if I want to give more money this year. So much for those two bucks, they must've spent several times that by now just writing to me...

  • by Tired and Emotional (750842) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @02:10PM (#31157726)
    On the Internet, everyone knows you are a dog.
  • I sympathize (Score:4, Insightful)

    by KGBear (71109) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @03:02PM (#31158572) Homepage
    But what ticks me off is that corporations are making bucketloads of money from information that belongs to me, at the same time as corporations are doing everything in their power to prevent me from using the information that belongs to them. All I want is some fundamental fairness. Part of the problem is that I cannot purchase some products and services with money alone; I am forced to fork over information in addition to money. On the other hand they make it as hard as possible, sometimes they make it illegal, for me to use products and services I payed for in any way I see fit - you know, as if what I purchased was actually my property. What's more, we have indeed lost this battle when most people here say "it's over - get used to it." It's *my* privacy you're selling for your own convenience, punk!

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