What Are Your 5 Biggest Online Privacy Worries?

Let’s talk about this.

Computer PrivacyAn article posted on ITWorld earlier this month got me thinking about how small businesses have to deal with online privacy issues. According to ITWorld, their top five concerns include:

  1. The proliferation of cookies.
  2. Theft of cloud-based data through weak password controls.
  3. Being betrayed by the stored location data on cell phones and other mobile devices.
  4. Photo tags on social networks.
  5. Federal and police agencies scanning online services.

Notice: None of these items include the words “hacker,” “rogue employee” or “security breach,” which you might have thought belonged here. Most simply involve things that we take for granted: surfing Web pages on our phones, or adding a photo or two to our Facebook accounts. It’s in the aggregate that things start to get sticky: Patterns emerge, patterns that can be accessed by anyone with a search engine and a bit of time.

To illustrate my point, I took another look at my Google account through what is now called the Dashboard. There’s a long list of things that various Google services knows about me, including an Android phone that I was testing last year, dozens of websites that I have given permission to access my account (time to audit these and revoke that access, along with revoking access in Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter), histories on my browsing, YouTube viewership, Google chat and so much more.

All of this is under your personal control. You just have to remember to practice good security hygiene.

So are you looking at any of this behavior when you evaluate the security profiles of your staff and co-workers? Or are you still stuck in the “defend my perimeter” mode and don’t really care whether someone has a cookie collection that could rival a Keebler Elf? Let’s hear what your biggest online privacy issues are. Just post a comment below.

4 Responses to “What Are Your 5 Biggest Online Privacy Worries?”

  1. David Strom

    I was somewhat surprised initially by this list, but upon further reflection it makes a lot of sense. As we allow more and smarter devices into our networks, this was bound to happen. Have you experienced any data loss as a result of these circumstances?

  2. I used to be a moderator on a security forum. We had discussions about security that were pretty dark behind the scenes and the possibilities of information aggregation were especially frightening when you viewed it as a method to detect and finger trouble citizens.

    The overall problem is not just that people give away lots of information, the problem is also that human curiosity can lead to false flags set. Here’s an example, you want to know what an STD looks like, so you search for images of it. Then insurance companies get records of your medical searches and assume you have the disease or think you do. Imagine if every search you made landed in a courtroom with you on the stand – can you explain away curiosity or stand under the hot lamp of scrutiny about everything you have ever wondered about when every human finger is pointed at all the disgusting searches you have made over time? There is always guilt by association too. If the majority of your friends online do drugs, don’t you think that your name will end up tangled up with theirs when an investigation is started for a ring.

    It would take me hours to go through some of the things we discussed and the scripts we wrote just to prove that things could be spied upon. This is the core reason that I refused to use any of the social networks that came out. It’s true, I never made a myspace, facebook, linkedin, or twitter and I never use my real name online nor do I keep the same nickname everywhere. Sure I get invites from people but I don’t participate intentionally because I know the internet is forever. I also know that when you aren’t paying for something, you are what is being sold.

    Cellphones are another big one, carrying around a personal tracking device might as well be a universal ID card with a better system when you have a contract.

    It’s only going to become more invasive with local storage which will need to be cleared like cookies. HTML 5 is bringing more local storage areas for websites so read about it to keep up.

    • David Strom

      Plinko, you bring up some good points. I think you have to seek moderation in communications, though. I like the care that you have taken with your social networks, but it might not be for everyone.