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Privacy: everyone says it’s important, but do they really think that?

I’m always struck by the difference between what people say they value when it comes to privacy and how they actually completely disregard their own privacy. 

 

Take for instance, those pop ups that talk about how the website you are visiting uses “cookies.”  Most people simply and unthinkingly click “accept all” or otherwise agree to allow cookies to be used.  I get it.  It happens almost every time you visit a website, and these days, most of us use websites A LOT.  Most people don’t read the terms and conditions (you are still held to have done so when you click accept, but that’s a legal fiction that deserves its own blog post).  Admittedly, I don’t always read the terms and conditions before accepting some things, and some websites won’t allow you to continue if you don’t accept. 

 

But I’m telling you, if you value your privacy, don’t accept the use of cookies. 

 

While seemingly innocuous, is the installation of cookies on your computer a condition we want so that we can use an internet site?  Do we really want to enable a website to know which site we came from, which site we move to next, and for that site to store all of that information?

 

I’ve reviewed a lot of terms and conditions for website owners, and they all have as a condition of use that the user allows cookies to be installed.  As stated above, this is like announcing when you enter a store which store you just came from, and what errand you will be running next.

 

Additionally, many sites then ask you to subscribe to their email newsletter or ad, which usually includes ‘beacons,’ which are invisible files in the email that lets the business know whether you have opened the email, and sometimes whether you scrolled to the bottom, and in some cases, even how long you had the email open.

 

This is like junk mail vendors having a certified mail delivery receipt on those mass mailers we all hate. 

 

Further, police have begun using “geofence warrants” (a subpoena) to Google and Apple to request location data, termed a “suspectless search.”  Many people leave their phones logged in to their different accounts so they don’t have to remember all their passwords, or enable location data to aid in using navigational technologies.  However, convenience comes with a cost; your every movement is tracked, and if you happen to be in the vicinity of a crime, you may find yourself answering questions from a law enforcement officer about your whereabouts last night.

 

I get it, our phones are a wondrous technology with vast capabilities; I almost always have a phone with me.  But as I said, convenience comes with a cost.  Maybe you aren’t concerned about someone knowing your search history or internet usage, or even where you are at any given moment.  However, the more we give, the more others will take and use.  Ponder on that and determine whether you want to eat that cookie.

 

The other aspect that I find so intriguing is the new willingness to completely destroy our own privacy when it comes to our likeness or personal details.  The other day on LinkedIn I saw a post about an AI startup that allows users to upload some selfies in order to receive AI-generated professional headshots.  Sounds great in theory; who wouldn’t want to sit on the couch in their sweatpants and get professional headshots of themselves in a suit and tie or business formal wear with different hairstyles? 

 

However, when I did a little more digging, I was horrified: you have to upload 25 of your “favorite” photos, in order to give the AI enough to work with.  Never mind that you are commissioning a deepfake to be created, you are eradicating any sort of privacy in your own visage. 

 

Here’s some quick research you can do to see where images of you exist on the internet: pimeyes.com offers a face search engine and reverse image search. 

 

Then read “Your Face Belongs to Us: A Secretive Startup’s Quest to End Privacy as We Know It” to gauge whether I’m an unmitigated crazy person or whether privacy is an antiquated ideal. 

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