Should you have a reasonable expectation of privacy on the Internet?
Recently we asked, “Should you have any reasonable expectation of privacy with Gmail?”, now there is a bigger question, “Should we expect privacy on the Internet at all?”
In a recent post, Michele posed the question, “Should you have any reasonable expectation of privacy with Gmail?”. It was in relation to an ongoing class-action suit against Google for perceived privacy infringements.
Considering the many services out there for which there are privacy concerns, coupled with the recent revelations that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been secretly gathering data from a variety of sources (including email, telephone and social media), the question we should ask is whether you should expect privacy on the Internet at all?
Email is not the only online service that threatens your privacy. Your Amazon shopping, Facebook updates, Dropbox files and Google searches are all areas of concern. Recently, a couple’s home was raided by SWAT when they searched for “pressure cookers” and “backpacks”.
Further, for files on Dropbox, the Terms of Service (TOS) says that “Dropbox employees are prohibited from viewing the content of files,” but goes on to say that they have “a small number of employees who must be able to access user data”. Several months ago there was a huge brouhaha about who owned the files on Dropbox. Yet, after all of that, people went right on using Dropbox, and they are still rapidly growing.
We’ve actually given up some privacy for more convenience. Google analyses your browsing history so it can display ads that are relevant to you. Amazon analyses your shopping habits to recommend products that you might find useful (although it can be debated whether that is a good thing). Dropbox analyses your files so that they can perform de-duplication, which reduces their storage requirements and thus allows them to offer you free space.
Are you willing to give these up? Or can we have the best of both worlds? Convenience and security? Privacy and free services? It would be nice, but I don’t think we can.
What do you think? I am interested in hearing your views.
Image credit: Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net