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Monday, April 25, 2011

Privacy n1t3mar3s

The usual way to do grab attention to the topic is to trot out privacy nightmares, such as the secret dossiers that hundreds of companies keep on you (they do), the man who was accused of arson because his grocery store records showed he purchased fire starters (he was), or the idea that a potential employer may one day pass on you because your musical tastes suggest you will be late to work three time per week (they could). But privacy nightmares are beginning to feel a bit like the boy who cried wolf. Cyber experts have warned about both a Digital Pearl Harbor and an information Three Mile Island for more than a decade now; doesn't the absence of that kind of disaster show that perhaps privacy is no big deal?

"I think it's partly because people are part of a large herd, they take a 'the lion is not going to attack antelope' mentality," said Ponemon, who runs the privacy consulting firm The Ponemon Institute. "And people are more scared of physical dangers that privacy risks. When that whole issue about groping and scanning at the airport came up, we did a study and found that people were more worried about getting cancer from the machines, and weren't overly concerned about privacy. It shows me that people feel they can't live without social networking, and they have to go on flights. So they just surrender." 

Gary LosHuertos parked himself in a New York City cafe last fall and fired up a new tool for snooping on people as they use free wireless. Within minutes, he had managed to spy on more than a dozen people as they used Facebook. It was just an experiment by the Web software expert, but he wanted to make a point — so he used the victims' own Facebook accounts to send them each an unnerving warning message. He told them he'd hacked their accounts, and he knew where they were.
He expected cursing, anger, perhaps some furious typing. Instead, many of his recipients just went right on surfing. So he prodded them a second time.
"Really wasn't kidding about the insecurity thing," he wrote. "I won't send another message after this — it's up to you to take your security seriously. You're at the [XYZ Street] Starbucks on an insecure connection, and absolutely anyone here can access your account with the right (free) tool."

60 percent —claim they care about privacy but will barely lift a finger in an effort to preserve it. They don't alter Facebook privacy settings, they don't complain when supermarkets demand their phone numbers and they certainly don't insist on encrypted e-mail.