Really disturbing stuff, Rob. I can imagine the PR defensiveness around these practices: "We're just protecting assets... being good stewards of money we lend... protecting shareholder value blah blah blah..." It's a huge disincentive to use social media sites; even with new privacy protections, I'm not sure I trust Facebook or lenders or anyone else to maintain my privacy and confidential data.
What can users today do to protect their online privacy? The simplest and most obvious option is to not use the Internet – at all. However, once all digital information is consolidated over the Internet, trying to protect digital identity by simply unplugging from the Internet becomes impossible – a fact that has manifest implications for civil liberties, Saunders says.
By 2011 the number of Internet-connected sensors will exceed 1 trillion, making your chances of doing anything or going anywhere unnoticed pretty much zero. Saunders talks about how the 'sensortization' of the Internet is eliminating the traditional divide between online and offline populations.
The 20th Century Internet was characterized by the ability to interact with other people and information on the Internet largely without anyone knowing who you were. The Internet of this century, conversely, will be defined by identity. Saunders explains how Internet users are unwittingly contributing to the demise of the anonymous Internet.
The US government is funding controversial projects to collect daily Internet activity, including Web searches, Twitter messages, Facebook and blog posts, and the digital location trails generated by billions of cellphones. Its goal is to map these interactions to predict social behavior, such as protests.
Some of the "cool" people are testing a new Web service: Blippy. It could be a great data source for corporations to glean info about customers’ credit card purchases. But it has all sorts of possible privacy and security problems. Buyer beware!
In the final episode of this series about the death of Internet anonymity, Saunders describes how the Internet of the future will start to attain a level of intelligence that requires no human intervention. Scary.
Steve Saunders talks about the risks inherent in uncontrolled, widespread profiling of Internet users, and how one day this practice could form the basis of a new industry, the Outernet, which in economic terms will have outgrown the commercial value of the Internet itself.
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