All about privacy

Way back in 2009… yes 3 years back I had written two posts – “Privacy would be a new luxury” and “the window needs to be shut”. Probably way ahead of the times I was. I was reminded of these posts when I read the Brunch yesterday (its a supplement with The Hindustan Times every Sunday). It was all about privacy fears, about data mining and building a complete profile of a person by the way he or she uses the web or anything that helps her stay connected. For those who want to know what I am talking about, grab a copy of Brunch or read my posts… The threat is real and it is happening. It may not happen to you because you think you take all the precautions but some day it will…


Privacy would soon be a new luxury

Posted: August 7, 2009 in Advertising & MarketingSocial Media

Luxury products are usually very expensive and affordable by a very few… the reason they are luxury and command a premium.

The way the world is going… soon there will be a new product which is going to be the ultimate luxury. And it is called privacy.

In the age of information explosion (and we ourselves add so much to that), nothing is hidden from anyone who wants to know more about us. If anything, we encourage information to be available about every waking (or sleeping) moment about us.

Facebook, Twitter, Orkut, MySpace, blogs, slideshare…. the list goes on… We are on display… or let me rephrase… we have put ourselves on display. Of course, most of it has been need driven… part of the social need set. But as we are slowly finding out… what goes on the web.. never really disappears. It would probably be there forever… in some form or the other… All the privacy issues that Facebook faced a while back… the furore was not so much about profiles not being deleted… it was about the future… and I will come to that later… The point is that we have taken this social interaction to a level where nothing.. well almost nothing is private… if it is not visible on the homepage or profile, it is visible in a text box of a mobile phone… in chat or e-mail… Nothing is hidden…

While this is what we do… there are organizations that are profiling us… banks, hospitality, mobile service providers, insurance… you name any organization… and they have a profile on their customers. In some cases we feel proud that they have a profile while in other cases it is an irritant…

And I also know that most recruitment consultants, the moment they get a resume, they get on the LinkedIn and all networking sites to check out the candidate! scary huh? people better watch it what they put up on ‘social’ networking sites and how much time they spend over there…

And trust me… while Google Voice is sounding so exciting right now… can you imagine the wealth of information that Google would get about your communication habits?

In one of my earlier posts – “Life in the Blue Nowhere” I had touched upon the fact that the more we are wired, the less is likely to be the privacy we would have… and it is true…

Now this is the case for a common man… celebrities too indulge in giving out very private information about themselves – case in point a little snippet I read about Angelina Jolie badgering Brad Pitt about the burial plot… Geez! And then the celebrities have issues with papparazzi chasing them! If you hang yourself out to dry… how can you complain about people knowing everything about you….

Slowly but surely… we are going to reach a stage when there will be a slew of products which would promise to protect your privacy… And these wont be just of the firewall type… they would be lot more complicated (and expensive) provide ways to erase a whole lot of stuff (stuff which sounded great when it was being posted or put up) from the web. Isolation is going to be packaged and sold (and there would be people who would buy!) and would be sold at exhorbitant prices… We would be craving for isolation… we would be ready to pay top dollar for it…

Letting go of all the gadgets and equipment is going to be tough (there would probably be de-addiction centers for that… for mobile phones there already are…) but we are going to surely try…

We try even now… couple of days away from it all… I know of a friend who had put up a message on facebook that he would not be responding to anything for a week and the comments he got… made for some interesting reading…

I bet there are organizations already working on such products… if anything they are right now feeding this whole “connect” frenzy so that when the time is ripe… there ‘isolation’ product would generate the kind of demand that would surpass the mania that was witnessed for iPhone…

The window needs to be shut

Posted: November 7, 2009 in Social Media

 It has been a while that I have posted anything. Work pressures and many other pressures. Been meaning to write this one for quite sometime now.

Read this book called “The Broken Window” by an author who is soon turning into one of my favorites – Mr Jeffrey Deavers.

At one level it is a gripping read and at another level, it is an indictment of the new culture that web access has spawned in terms of virtual lives taking over from real lives and more importantly, every little piece of information gets stored deep down in some server and then is mined to build a profile on the individual.

Any organization can build extensive profiles  and can have access to the most intimate details basis the purchase that a person makes using a debit/credit card or shopping online or essentially any activity that involves a transaction which is connected and if you read the book, it will send a chill up your spine. You can read more about the book at:

But the reason for this post… almost like a continuation of earlier posts about “Life in Blue Nowhere” and how “Privacy would be a new luxury”… we are reaching a point where everything that we do and a whole lot of that is online can be captured and used to build our profile. And that profile can be used by corporates to target their offerings. It can be used strategically to modify our behaviour. And it can be used for some really dangerous stuff as mentioned in the book.

I have really started wondering if  “going off the grid”  is a concept whose time has come. The way things are, using a debit card or a credit card may not be very prudent. Can you imagine, you buy a whole lot of stuff and pay through cards (wonder how many have noticed that at the cash counter, while the card gets swiped for transaction, it also gets swiped into the outlet database), the cross tabs of what you have bought can be very informative to a data miner.

Staying endlessly on facebook, twittering and everything else to be socially active on the web would soon lead to people knowing everything about you. Read another book by Mr Deavers and it uses what we say on social networking sites and as comments on various blogs to create a scenario where nothing is private. A person with a little elevated skills of data mining can unearth so many  things that it is scary… your fears, your passions, your insecurities… it is all there for everyone to see.

Rambling of course,  but I do believe that sanity is required in terms of how we use our conveniences and more important, there needs to be a control on how data mining is used. Till that happens, I am going to figure out ways of slowly dropping off the grid.

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