You have nothing to hide if you are doing nothing wrong; it is a scary thought because we all have things we don’t want other people to know about. There is a line between public knowledge that we share on Facebook, Likaholix, Posterous, MySpace and the tons of other places where we leave our digital footprints and the private lives that we live when the curtains are drawn.
The sad part is that when it comes to search or when it comes to many of the activities we do online, we often do not think about the footprints we leave behind. We think that our searches are private, that our e-mails will not be read, that the contents of our computers will not be exposed publicly. We love this idea of privacy that we think we have online, that what we do is safely private between me and the sites I interact with. The reality of what we leave behind and how it can be used against us was well demonstrated when AOL in 2006 released a bunch of search data that was eventually used to identify discreet people, which the press promptly went to go visit. Search data is some of the most private information that we think we have, that we don’t really have.
We use our Google Toolbars and our Google products much like we use AOL, Yahoo and Microsoft products. This is not a Google specific issue, what is the issue is the following idea.
The information you submit to Search Engines (all of them) is subject to being subpoenaed and given to the authorities. That the illusion of privacy that we think we have is really not an illusion, we simply do not have privacy online. While Bruce Schneier, Boing Boing and others can all cut deeply into Google’s CEO statement about privacy, the reality is that what we do online is truly simple to monitor. Even if you stumble across things you would not willingly bring into your life online from the mundane to the illegal, you leave a digital footprint behind.
This is what makes the idea of Google DNS and Google’s tighter integration with the internet all the more interesting. This is what makes ACTA all the more interesting in relationship to the monitoring of what you do online to stop piracy by an ISP. We are casting a wider and wider net to catch the bad guys that is going to sweep up innocents like suing dead people for downloading music. Eventually people are going to notice that people do some truly stupid things online and go places that they do not want everyone to know about. Social Networking is what you put out in public and is the number one activity online, but Porn follows a close second. How many people really want their porn habits generally known or even think that it would be subpoenaed. That is what happened to all those AOL search engine users, and it would be naive of us to think that governments worldwide are not monitoring the internet, and what we are looking for. There is far too much data to think that what we do online is not of interest to governments, spy agencies, law enforcement, and your electronic neighbors simply hovering information off the internet.
What we are not used to is the candor of which our illusions are shattered which is what really happened with Google’s CEO’s statement on CNBC. What is surprising is that the bubble was popped for the 15 minutes this will be discussed until we all go back to our state thinking that what we do online is private. We know that the internet is monitored heavily in China and in the UK. We know about the secret AT&T Closets and the back door into Verizon. Why else would telco’s want immunity from crimes during the Bush administration that Obama supports and the massive hovering of the internet looking for terrorists by sifting through as many phone calls and internet sessions as the government could get their hands on.
What really happened is that a lot of people had their naiveté shattered by an honest open statement. We are aghast that anyone would ever try to get their hands on what we do online, read our e-mails, monitor what we do online, and monitor our phone conversations. The sad reality is that these happen, not just in China and not just in the Middle East, but in America and in England, and in many other countries. But what is a good point and one that we really do need to pay attention to is Bruce Schnieier’s comments at the bottom of his entry, which I will include here, with the wish that more people would read this.
Too many wrongly characterize the debate as “security versus privacy.” The real choice is liberty versus control. Tyranny, whether it arises under threat of foreign physical attack or under constant domestic authoritative scrutiny, is still tyranny. Liberty requires security without intrusion, security plus privacy. Widespread police surveillance is the very definition of a police state. And that’s why we should champion privacy even when we have nothing to hide. Source: Schneier.com
(Cross-posted @ TechWag)