Privacy: death or transitory stage?

I Know Who You Are and I Saw What You Did – Social Networks and the Death of Privacy – By Lori Andrews – Book Review – NYTimes.com. 27 January 2012
This is an article I came to indirectly via a 29 May 2012 post in Business and Human Rights about the $26 pamphlet published by Lori Andrews “I know who you are and I saw what you did”. I have not read the book (253pp) but the NY Times should give here an accurate account of its contents. I would agree with the criticisms made (providing obviously that it is what Mrs Andrews said). The author of the review is Evgeny Morozov with his most recent book is “The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom.”

More importantly, when I scrolled on the webpage of the ABA that reports this article (and two others), there were two comments, one of which quotes the website “spokeo.com”. So I googled it and entered my name, just to see. The site seems to be purely US and does not have any information on me, at least on its freeview version (maybe if I pay, I would find information). Just to see what type of info they collect I typed a person’s fairly common name who I know. I was absolutely amazed to see the exact address appeared ALONGSIDE (that is the scary bit) the name of this person’s partner, the number of family related people to the name etc… In other words, even the free version allows you to have a pretty good database of people where all their personal info is centralised.

Spokeo, in its privacy page (yes, it exists!), explains how the information is collected: phonebook, marketing surveys, real estate records, social networks etc… http://www.spokeo.com/privacy

which attracts a number of comments. The fear, by most people, that the State will collect the information about them is completely misplaced in that corporations are more likely to harness data before they will be able to do so and MAKE MONEY out of it, with no morality checks. This is because States have checks and balances that control what they do. Even though the checks are not perfect and abuse of powers remains always possible, there are at least some checks. This is not the case for corporations: there is no check on Spokeo. They may have a privacy policy but who controls that the policy is law-compliant, and that their practice (and not only their policy) complies with the right to privacy? There is no specific agency doing so. It falls on citizens who might become aware of the site and who might be interested to enquire to look at the issues. In other words, constraints/checks and balances do not exist.

Moreover, part of the site is not accessible to those who do not pay. So what information is traded by the company and to whom? At least when governments have that type of information, they have a duty to make it available to the public in forms of statistics etc.. or to the person on which they have the info. there, there is no obligation. I would argue it is even against the company’s business policy to be controlled on what they trade.

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About Audrey Guinchard

Senior Lecturer @ University of Essex (UK)
This entry was posted in Anonymity, Corporate Responsibility, Countries - US, EU policy, Prevention - Security, Privacy. Bookmark the permalink.

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