A case against online privacy

A case against online privacy

Summary: Privacy on the Internet is a flaring debate. Given how Facebook keeps flirting with user data and ISPs tracking users' Internet surfing, there is no privacy on the Internet.

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The world went crazy with privacy concerns last month over news about Facebook tracking users even after they logged out was made. (It has to do with cookies.)  Oh how the private lives were being spied on by Mark Zuckerberg caved in a bunker with the rest of the Facebook employees monitoring and tracking every Facebook user much like Lucius Fox and Batman; only to sell this data to scamming advertisers and pesky telemarketers who want to sell every married guy a pair of lingerie for he searched about what women like or the telemarketer from Bangladesh who will keep calling you to buy a plastic squeeze to fart cow since you played Farmville. Oh how dare you Zuckerberg?!A case against online privacy

Then Jeff Bezos unveiled Amazon Silk -- the browser that will predict your next click based on what other users clicked. I knew that Bezos had evil plans with that Amazon Kindle. He even looks like Lex Luthor, I knew it! He was up to no good. Privacy Jeff! Privacy! I don’t want you to know that I will click on the nude Lindsay Lohan link after reading about her recent kerfuffle on TMZ’s website. RESPECT MY PRIVACY AMAZON!

Of course all this privacy noise comes with no explanation as to what’s wrong if Amazon tries to study what their users are doing on the Internet. Here’s what happens if Facebook, Amazon, Bing, Google study user behavior:

  • Tailored search results
  • Better browsing experience

The computer finally does what it’s supposed to—start helping you in everyday life. Then there is the advertiser argument. If I read about men’s fashion on Facebook, the ads lead me some great websites like PRIVE or Gilt. They show me stuff that I might buy instead of emoticons to download. I’ve found and bought stuff through Facebook’s tailored ads. Another argument is Facebook making money through my data. "O. M. G. Zucky, u r rUDe!"

So essentially, these guys want Facebook to keep offering uninterrupted cloud storage and a medium to communicate for free and not make any money to maintain/run the service. Fair enough, dumb people exist. Let’s put this in perspective: Facebook collects user data to study user behavior then shares this data with advertisers who then show you with results that might be relevant and useful to you. For argument’s sake this unethical and Facebook says we’ll start charging users monthly subscription fees. This model will fail since there is an entry barrier and less users will be willing to use the service. This destroys the whole social aspect of Facebook since less of my friends and their friends will be on Facebook—everybody loses.

I understand privacy concerns but what I can’t rationalize is what is wrong with Facebook or Amazon tracking me. They’re doing so to:

  • make money
  • (as a side effect) provide me some value

Compared to ISPs who know everything I do, store this data for 7 years and willing share this data with cops or cap my Internet speeds if I download too much? Let’s see:

  • service that knows what I do and provides me a better experience
  • service that won’t tell me I’m being tracked, share this data with the cops and provide me NO benefit

I wonder who’s more dangerous. From all the social media privacy rhetoric, it’s clear that an opt-in service or an opt-out option makes people more comfortable about sharing information which isn’t private in the first place. But the power suggestion and perception is strong. Also, please cut the crap with all the privacy BS since clearly there is no downside unless citizens of India, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan keep feeding American servers through networks like Facebook/Twitter only so that this data can be used by the CIA to study the country and fly unmanned drones to attack.

Taking cue from The Matrix, I'll put this way: If you're on the Internet... there is no privacy.

See also:

Topics: Social Enterprise, Amazon

Manan Kakkar

About Manan Kakkar

Telecommunication engineer with a keen interest in end-user technology and a News junkie, I share my thoughts while preparing for my Master's in Information Management.

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55 comments
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  • RE: A case against online privacy

    If you want to give up your privacy, that is your choice. But it shouldnt be forced on you. Facebook and Amazon tracking your internet movements when you arent connected thru them, logged in, etc, is a breach of privacy. Your ISP's have logs of your internet activity by default, but they require a warrant to divulge, they dont sell information about you to anyone that will buy it.<br><br>Dont complain, in the near future, when law enforcement knocks on your door, after being alerted that you (accidentally) clicked on the wrong link and went to the wrong site and saw something you didnt mean to do. And that information was sold to the DoJ or local police, after all, you dont care if your movements are tracked, right?
    tiderulz
    • RE: A case against online privacy

      @tiderulz Exactly. If I am on their site that is one thing, but once I leave, it is none of their business where I go. I understand that they are in business to make a profit, but there has to be a line and tracking me after I log out crosses that line.
      KerrieG
      • Spot on, @KerrieG

        @KerrieG: You're right on the money. I'm aware that sites like PC Magazine track me while I'm reading articles or downloading software. But I don't need them knowing what music I listen to or movies I rent. That's a bit much.

        And let's not forget that Facebook is unlike other sites is one special way--they know who you are. Unlike sites that track an aggregate number of visitors to determine statistical usage patterns, Facebook can combine your site visits and clicks to start building a pretty specific profile about you. And they can sell or use that information however they please without my having a chance to object in any way. That wasn't what I agreed to when I signed up, and they're changing the rules as they go.
        the.ksmm
    • RE: A case against online privacy

      @tiderulz

      I think his point was that if you have AT&T or Comcast, who have both given data over at DOJ request without a warrant, then worrying over facebook is closing the barn door after all the horses have gotten out.
      tkejlboom
      • RE: A case against online privacy

        @tkejlboom
        different things. You choose to have AT&T or Comcast as a provider and know that they keep records of what you do. You dont choose to have facebook monitor your web movement. especially if you have logged out from them. Unless they state in the terms of their services that they will actively monitor you after you leave their application, they should not be doing that.

        the 2 cannot be compared the same.
        tiderulz
      • RE: A case against online privacy

        <i>different things. You choose to have AT&T or Comcast as a provider and know that they keep records of what you do.</i><br><br>That's not necessarily true. Due to franchise exclusivity agreements where you live, AT&T or Comcast may be <b>the only ISP</b> available in your area. The choice would then be, do I have broadband or don't I?
        ScorpioBlue
  • RE: A case against online privacy

    [i](as a side effect) provide me some value[/i]

    Really? Of those side bar ads I see on facebook or anywhere else, I have never, not even once, clicked on a single one. Never will. Perhaps they're giving you some benefit, not me.
    Badgered
  • More to the point...

    A gift unasked for isn't really a gift.

    So, arguing that it's ok for a company to track you because you get better service or better choice is ok *as long as you choose this* because you may have no interest in their products, but now will be hounded by them to buy anyway.

    If they're marketing to you and you don't want it - just because you went to a site or clicked a link - then it's not a benefit - it's *stalking*.
    TheWerewolf
    • RE: A case against online privacy

      @TheWerewolf
      You chose to receive the ads when you accepted the gift of "free" access to Facebook.
      john-whorfin
      • RE: A case against online privacy

        @john-whorfin

        Except when the people signed up there was nothing in the terms about getting the ads or being tracked, at least, there wasn't when I joined. Facebook said "here is this service and we charge you nothing, please use it." So people did. Now we learned they lied, in a big way. What a surprised a US company lied to us!! (please don't slip on the dripping sarcasm)

        I'm just glad I closed the account a few years back and have since rebuilt the system, so there's no way they can be tracking me now.
        Deadly Ernest
  • RE: A case against online privacy

    The problem with an internet tailored to my specific "needs" is that I end up living in an information bubble. This makes it harder for me to find information that conflicts with my point of view. It makes it harder for me to expand my tastes by finding music or films I might have considered had i known they exist. It's all fine and well to tailor searches to my taste based on my history and other peoples' histories, but I should have the option of opting out.
    ebudae@...
    • running with the herd

      @ebudae@...
      The point about making it more difficult to find things that "conflict" with your viewpoint, and as a result living in a bubble is HUGE. We live in a age where people surround themselves with ONLY sources that support their existing prejudices, listen only to Fox "News", or whatever, and never venture outside their comfort zone. The tragically stupid conflicts we are involved in (military), are both a direct result of this. Of people failing to ask the questions that needed to be asked. The truth WAS out there, and it was not difficult to sort out from the tissue of lies most Americans swallowed hook line and sinker. Independence of thought, the ability to look at something from various perspectives, and to question your own prejudices is critically important, and it is dying out! I personally find that my ability to search and find what I really want is greatly hampered by Google's search system that anticipates, and prioritizes results based on this. What I am often looking for is often buried so deeply as to require an intolerable amount of time to find. What once seemed a great engine has turned to a liability... something that forces you into the mold at every turn of the path. I am reminded of the huge disservice Billboard Magazine has done to the music industry. If someone is not already popular, your chances of finding their work is slim to zilch. I am also sick to death of constantly having photos of single girls in my city (population 5) thrown in my face at every turn.... obvious random faces from some database somewhere. This technology has NOTHING to commend it as far as I'm concerned. Facebook is so obnoxious that while I have an account, I refuse to post anything at all or reveal any information.. It has it's uses but I have often considered closing my account because of the outrageous infringements of privacy. Linkedin seems to have set up an account for me without my consent... it's a mad world!!
      Howard
      **owly**
  • RE: A Case Against Online Privacy

    Another bunch of bloggers who miss the point entirely and don't get it!
    @tiderulz does get it and understands the problem.
    Tholian_53
    • RE: A case against online privacy

      @Tholian_53 \

      How so?
      tom@...
  • RE: A case against online privacy

    It sounds like a market opportunity to provide privacy products and services. Throw away email addresses. Proxy servers. Fake Facebook profiles. Self-destructing emails. The more sites try to violate our privacy the more willing people will be to pay for privacy.
    BallantyneGuy
    • RE: A case against online privacy

      @BallantyneGuy
      Sounds like a challenge for the programmers at Facebook, to disable accounts that are using throw away emails, proxy servers and other measures to circumvent the ads and tracking that pay for the service being provided.
      john-whorfin
    • We need to make the effort to retain some privacy

      @BallantyneGuy
      It is time that we all start making the effort to protect some of our privacy. Using tor proxies does take a little effort. Encrypting email takes a bit more effort. It is worth the effort. Stand up for your rights to have an email conversation or research a subject without some government or marketing company logging it into your permanent record.
      Frankly, their targeted marketing is simply annoying. Just because I once purchased a particular genre of music as a gift, doesn't mean that I want to keep getting recommendations for more of that type of noise.
      GreggN
  • RE: A case against online privacy

    Here's an thought. How about an option on Facebook to pay a subscriber fee in order to opt out of ad related tracking. I have no doubt that they know how much revenue they make off the average user. It would certainly be interesting to see how many users would choose to cough up $20/month for the sake of their privacy.
    john-whorfin
    • RE: A case against online privacy

      @john-whorfin
      well, i only go to facebook for family and friend contact. The minute FB starting charging me anything, i would drop it, as i imagine a LOT of people would. i imagine they would lose more money than they gained by this, in the number of lost users.
      tiderulz
      • RE: A case against online privacy

        @tiderulz

        You're proving my point. Your privacy is worth a lot less to you than green money. Facebook is not free, you pay for it with your privacy
        john-whorfin