June 30, 2015

Privacy - It is Not What We the People Chose - Now What?


Scott McNealy, Sun's founder, said way back in 1999 (1st reported I think), "You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it"1.  He said this pre Facebook, Twitter and Instagram; he said this before anyone ever imagined what social media would become.  What Scott was talking about in 1999 was the aggregation of data about us.  Computer systems and databases had become very affordable and everyone realized that the data about us was valuable to someone - valuable to a lot of someones.  All of a sudden, there were LISTS (more than ever before)vand we were on them.

Then came social media.  The same people (most of us (you)) that complained about telemarketers, stock brokers, insurance companies, etc calling and knowing too much about us started posting  pictures, what we ate, where we ate, our vacations (in real time), our schedules, what our kids were doing, our new material possessions, etc, etc, etc.

In, and about those same time frames, came tools to mine data; to create more refined lists.

In, and about those same time frames again, came ideas to encourage us to signup for rewards and loyalty programs - and of course, we volunteered and jumped in.

Companies, schools and organizations (everyone) then realized that their data, old or new, had value.  Buyers, aggregators and even competitors shared / sold / bought the data.  Data was exchanged, aggregated and scrubbed; our history could now be purchased - in total - from many different places.  We also discovered that privacy policies meant nothing.

OK, those are the facts, so now what do we do?

We are lucky in many ways that the data about us is not about you, it is about all of us.  There is no big brother watching you; even our government can not afford to do that.  Data has value as aggregated for marketing; i.e. people who bought luxury cars in 2014?  Data has value in more ways than I can list.

Don't get me wrong, data can get you too.  Sometimes the search is for an exception; if you fit, you will be found.  If someone wants YOU, well, if they are willing to spend a couple bucks, they will find you.

So where to hide?  Hiding in the weeds only works if you are a weed.  Hide in plain sight (if you need to hide) because you are just one of 300MM+ people in this country.  Unless you are being stalked or are the exception, no one is looking.  Privacy paranoia is just that, paranoia; so continue living.

Happy Living.
1 "You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it". Sprenger, Polly (1999-01-26). "Sun on Privacy: 'Get Over It'". Wired.

Bob Leonard
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