moosecamp2008 I’m not sure why, but I didn’t really get into the swing of things until this afternoon. Just wasn’t as enthused for MooseCamp as I have been in previous years. Maybe that’s because so much of it is repetitious. I mean, Kris Krug’s PhotoCamp sessions are always excellent, but they’re also always very similar. I’ve spent most of the afternoon in the Internet BootCamp. Despite being aimed at beginners, I don’t think the content has been all that introductory. It’s been interesting, for sure.

In the last session on liveblogging, someone mentioned that they found it odd that so many people are just snapping photos and uploading them without asking permission. Megan sympathizes, because she doesn’t like her photo being taken. I think that if you’re attending Northern Voice or any other tech conference, there’s an expectation that you’re going to get blogged, photographed, videotaped, streamed, Twittered, etc. If you are really uncomfortable with having your photo taken, you shouldn’t be here.

That might sound harsh, but that’s how I feel. I fully appreciate privacy and asking permission, but I think you implicitly give permission by attending. That expectation has been set.

Only a couple hours of MooseCamp left! The session we’re in now is called Traffic, Stats, SEO 101. Definitely one of my least favorite topics, but I didn’t want to give up the power outlet 😉

I'll say it until I'm blue in the face

Post ImageThere is no privacy on the web.

Early this morning, Robert Scoble’s Facebook account was disabled because he violated their terms of service by scraping data from the site. That caused a flood of a posts from people saying that either Scoble was wrong or that Facebook got what it deserved. Most people siding with Scoble said that as he owns his data, not Facebook, he was in the right. He should be able to do with it whatever he wishes. Except that he doesn’t own all the data. Would his friends be happy to find out that he was taking their data elsewhere without their knowledge?

Not that it matters. It should be a non-issue. If everyone realized the truth – there is no privacy on the web – no one would be up-in-arms about the whole situation.

Sure there is something to be said about Facebook only sharing data when it makes good business sense for them to do so. Some might say that’s evil, others might say that’s business. Either way, it all boils down to privacy. Facebook gives you the impression that your data is secure, but it really isn’t.

There is no privacy on the web.

Scott Karp rightly points out that data is power. He suggests a war will be fought over control of data. I wonder though, if such a war can ever have a victor? Does Scoble own the data in his account? Does Facebook? What about his friends, don’t they own some of it? What about advertisers, surely they own some of it? Other companies? I think it’s a pointless battle. There’s far too much entanglement.

Forget trying to control the data. Let it flow freely. Forget trying to keep things secret. If there’s something that must be kept private, don’t post it on the web.

There is no privacy on the web.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re safe. With each passing day we give up a little bit more privacy than the last. The bottom line is that we almost always choose convenience over privacy, whether we know it or not. There’s a reason that concepts like identity theft didn’t really exist a hundred years ago. We share more information about ourselves now than individuals did back then, and we think nothing of it. Of course, accessing and distributing that information is easier than ever too, thanks in large part to the Internet.

Everything you think you know about privacy in the physical world is meaningless in the virtual world. The rules of the game are completely different.

There is no privacy on the web.

Read: Techmeme

The Gatekeepers of Privacy

Post ImageAs you know, I don’t worry that much about online privacy. In fact, I think it’s a huge waste of time to be overly concerned about privacy on the web. I always keep two things in mind:

  1. There is no such thing as private information.
  2. If someone looks at information online and draws a negative impression about me, I have larger problems than privacy to worry about.

So far my strategy has been working fairly well. To my knowledge I haven’t missed out on any opportunities because of information about me found on the web – quite the opposite in fact.

For some reason though, I am fascinated by the worries and concerns of others when it comes to information privacy. And believe, me there are a lot of worriers out there. So many, it seems, that Global TV‘s troubleshooter looked at the security of Facebook and other popular websites last night (unfortunately they haven’t full embraced the new web, and the video is not available on their site).

They contacted a local “hacking” firm, and asked them to review Facebook, Gmail, and other popular sites. The gentleman they spoke to couldn’t have been more cliché – long hair, super geeky, could be mistaken for a girl, you know the type. Anyway, they apparently spent over 30 hours trying to “hack” into Facebook and couldn’t get in. I just shook my head through all of this. They deemed Facebook “very secure”. Well, problem solved I guess, haha!

Then they spoke to a professor from the UofA (if I remember correctly) who said that living under the assumption that your information is safe is a dangerous thing to do. Finally someone smart! The segment then ended with the anchors asking each other if they were on Facebook (they aren’t, unfortunately). Oh and the suggestion that you should read the privacy policy of every site you visit (yeah, cuz that’s going to happen).

It doesn’t matter how secure Facebook is. Privacy is not about technology. If someone wants to find out something about you, they will. Social engineering, dumpster diving, and many other techniques are far more effective than trying to hack into a site like Facebook. More importantly, there’s no need to – just create your own Facebook account! Chances are, the person you’re interested in hasn’t adjusted their privacy settings anyway.

For its part, Facebook follows two core principles:

  1. You should have control over your personal information.
  2. You should have access to the information others want to share.

A respectable policy, no doubt. Here’s the problem though. Let’s say I give access to certain information only to my brother. No one else (in theory) can see it, right? Wrong. I can give my brother access to the information, but I can’t restrict him from doing something with it.

Technology is just a tool. People are the gatekeepers of privacy.

Have you seen the creepy commercial from Shaw?

Post ImageRegular readers of my blog will know that I don’t worry about online privacy all that much. My gut reaction to new technologies or products is generally not “what about my privacy!” As a result, I was pretty surprised to think about privacy right after seeing the new television commerical from Shaw! A quick search didn’t turn up any videos, so here’s a quick rundown of the commercial in case you haven’t seen it:

The commercial is shot in the familiar “Apple white” environment, with lots of people running around. The voiceover starts talking about Shaw’s technology, noting that Shaw is there “for every conversation, every web search, and every online purchase.” The video depicts these scenarios. The commercial concludes with something similar to, “the greatest thing about our technology, is the people behind it.”

It’s a good overall message, and I think I understand what they were going for. It’s too bad it comes off as kind of creepy. The thought process might go something like this:

  1. Ah Shaw, yah I know this company.
  2. Web search? Oh right my ISP is Shaw.
  3. Conversations? Ahhh yes the new Shaw VOIP!
  4. People behind the technology, that makes sense.
  5. Wait a minute…web searches, purchases, conversations – they know everything about me!

Maybe I’m just reading into it too much, but I think Shaw would have been better off not highlighting all of the various things they could keep track of.

Thoughts About Online Privacy

Post ImageI just did a quick search of my blog and found to my surprise that I haven’t really written about privacy before. It’s a topic that is often discussed, especially as more and more of our lives move online, so I figured I’d have said something about it in the past. Oh well, now is as good a time as any. I’d have to say that my opinion about online privacy is different than most. First, here’s the usual perspective:

Chuck Sanchez, a 25-year-old Chicagoan, recently deleted references to his public relations firm on his MySpace page after everyone from a job applicant to his fiancee’s mother found the page.

“It’s simply not worth it,” he says. “I want my personal site to be just that: personal.”

I agree it’s smart (and let’s be honest, common sense) to be careful about what you post online. But attempting to remove references is futile. It’s almost as stupid as thinking that if you never post about something that it’ll never get online. That’s just a dangerous way to think about privacy.

When it comes to online privacy, I keep these two things in mind:

  1. Eventually, despite your best efforts, any information (personal or otherwise) could become universally accessible.
  2. The only way to protect yourself from the potentially negative effects related to information disclosure is to contribute to the stream of information, to maintain an active online voice.

That voice can be a website, a blog, a profile at a social networking site, or anything else that works for you, even a combination of these things. As long as you can continually contribute positive information to the stream of information, you should be fine.

Everyone makes mistakes. Usually you learn from your mistakes. Unfortunately, it’s primarily the mistakes that make it online and not the learning experiences that follow. When it comes to online privacy, you just need to maintain a balance between disclosure of the mistakes and your sharing of the learning experiences. If you do that, it’s much less likely that you’ll run into disclosure problems.

Another thought. Imagine a world in which all personal information was kept private. How would you know who to trust? It’s often the personal information that allows us to make decisions about a person. This happens consciously (such as when you are reading a resume) and subconsciously (such as when your opinion of someone changes based on their clothing). Now imagine a world in which all personal information is publicly disclosed. With complete information, it becomes trivial to make decisions about whom to trust, based on what is essentially pattern recognition. Of course, having complete information could have severe social consequences.

I don’t think either extreme is ideal, though I learn towards the side of full disclosure. And if that changes, you’ll be able to read about it here.

One more thing: in general, I’d say people are pretty lazy. If your “information stream” is pretty full, potential employers or other interested individuals will be much less likely to spend the time reading it all. And if they do, your contributions to the information stream should come in handy!

Read: Yahoo News

World of Warcraft invading privacy?

Post ImageI know at least a few of you reading this are hardcore World of Warcraft players, so I thought it would be interesting to get your take on this:

A number of “World of Warcraft” players are up in arms over software being used by the game’s publisher to scan users’ computers for hacks prohibited under its terms of service.

“It opens the ability for a company to do a whole list of things under the guise of security,” said a frequent “World of Warcraft” player who asked to be referred to only by his first name, Dennis. “Once you give a company the right to scan your system, you’ve basically opened the door…Now you must fully trust that company with any data on your computer, because it’s at their discretion that they download this data and do whatever they want to with it under the guise of stopping the hackers.”

Do you care about the privacy issues? Do you really think Blizzard would do anything malicious?

Read: CNET