Price of Online Anonymity

NPR interview with Julia Angwin, Dragnet Nation author. 


Personal information is our ticket to ride in the “digital” era. Governments  survey for protection, companies survey for profit.  The public demands free apps on smart phones, free accounts on websites, location services for travel, etc.   All of these should operate cohesively, while not invading privacy.

Julia Angwin discusses information collection in her new book Dragnet Nation.  In her study, she concludes “there’s a price you pay for living in the modern world. And some of that has to do with — you have to share your data.”

Is this a fair trade?  What expressions of personal information are exhibited in our daily lives?  If you wear a Beatles t-shirt to a record shop and browse the hip-hop section, is it infringing on your privacy if the owner suggests you purchase Danger Mouse’s Grey Album, a Jay-Z Black Album/Beatles White Album mashup? How are YouTube’s ad suggestions different?

How conscious are you of current data collection?

“Retailers such as Whole Foods have used digital signs that are actually facial recognition scanners. Some car dealerships are using a service from Dataium that lets them know which cars you have browsed online, if you have given them your e-mail address, before you arrive on the dealership lot.”

“Your name, address, and other identifying details—even the location of your cell phone at any given time—are all stored in various databases that you cannot view or control.”

Data services perpetually track you, and presently, if you want to participate in the modern world, that’s the price you pay.

How do you feel about your present life and its relationship with technology?  Do you feel uneasy about using online resources?  I don’t regularly feel like my privacy is being invaded, but perhaps that’s because I don’t know the extent of my information’s collection.  If cooperation and happiness are optimal, can they both be attained while favoring corporate/governmental interests?  To some extent, it can be argued that is our established reality.

Read her findings and check out the comments section too where I found interesting thoughts and useful links: 

Blender – Anonymizes your Firefox browser

TrackMeNot – searches random phrases in Google for you, adding noise to your history


Mike Brazier

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