Jan 28 2009
Time for Captain Privacy to don his mask, cape and baggy sweat pants (no spandex for Captain Privacy)! It’s Data Privacy Day 2009!
Mike Rothman dubbed me Captain Privacy after a particular string of posts that rabidly argued that a person’s right to privacy far outweighed most business needs and the government desire to know everything, except in specific cases. That’s an opinion I still hold, but it’s been modified by the fact that most people are willing to give up even the illusion of privacy if you offer them a candy bar or a shiny new widget for their desktop. I’ve come to realize that privacy is about the government and corporations keeping their nose out of our business, but we also have a responsibility to monitor what we’re making available for public consumption about ourselves. This is the part of the equation most people forget to think about.
Awareness and education are the primary goals of Data Privacy Day. A whole generation is growing up with not only the interconnectivity of the Internet, but social media and all the disclosure that’s associated with it. We’ve already seen a number of people who’ve either been denied or lost jobs due to what they’ve written or displayed on Facebook and MySpace. This is only the tip of the iceberg compared to many of the more minor, day to day problems with posting to sites anyone can look at. And it’s not because people are being stupid, it’s just because most people have no idea that a potential boss or date might be able to look them up at a later time. People lack the education to understand the consequences their actions in their social networks can lead to.
Businesses and the government have a responsibility to play in privacy as well. A few years ago AOL gave us a graphic example of how much information persists in search engine databases even once you’ve stripped out user names. Credit card companies know everything you’ve ever purchased on a card, the phone company knows who you’ve talked to and the government wants access to it all just in case you or I might be a terrorist. And lets not forget the bad guys who might want to gather some of that information as well so they can pretend to be you and open accounts and steal money and goods. Information has value and many different entities want your information because of it.
Take a couple of minutes in honor of Data Privacy Day and reflect on what you’re putting out there for the public to see. It’s a little ironic for someone like myself, who lives a large part of their life online, publishing his day to day thoughts, to tell other people to be careful what they post to the Internet. But I think carefully before I post and think about the long term consequences of my postings. You should too.
And yes, I really do have a mask and cape. My wife gave them to me for Christmas. And no, I don’t have tights or spandex.