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.