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Living the Good LifeThe Promise of Personal Privacy: The Idyllic Fallacy
Think your privacy and personal information is your own? Think again. Thwart identity theft TODAY by practicing safe computing and information-handling habits. Limit what personal data you give away and keep your identity your own.
The Promise of Personal Privacy: The Idyllic Fallacy.
They’re called “chronics.” They’re people who get a little – or very – carried away with some passion or another, usually in display or way that’s disturbing or unsettling. Just ask David Letterman. The talk-show host once was the victim of an uber fan who diligently gathered every piece of personal information uttered on air or released in print. Once arrested by the police for stalking, the depth of her efforts were disturbing, indeed.
Celebrities often suffer such a “chronic’s” folly. But data mining organizations out there do it professionally to you and me – everyday. And we let them. In fact, we help them.
In recent years, news has been pouring in about loss of identity – figuratively and literally. Several years ago, some 26 million American veterans had their personal information stolen. It served as a reminder of how tenuous – and distant a notion, in many ways – our “privacy” is. To see how far we’ve gone down the road toward complete exposure and non-anonymity, Anna Quindlen laid out our disconcerting path in “Your Mother’s Maiden Name,” a 2006 entry in her The Last Word column in Newsweek.
Don’t yet agree that you’ve let go of every possible ID you have? Think back to college to remember how much you’ve given away along the way: Numbers (Social Security, driver license, various credit card numbers – including the security codes on the back, and phone), addresses, and yes, even our mother’s maiden name, have been released by us, and tracked and archived by others. Until recently, my kids’ Social Security numbers were their grade-school IDs.
Even passwords – the digital embodiment of “security” – are gathered on computer networks to ensure you’re who you say you are (as if they need to ask at this point). And software out there sniffs and gathers them out of thin air, like so many keystrokes that they are, for hackers to use to break into networks and bank accounts.
What can you do? Short of enrolling in a witness protection program, solutions now are few. But most rely on you – the ID owner. Among the strategies:
Most important, instill good Internet habits in your children. Keep them off the social networking sites – or at least educate them as to what personal information they shouldn’t post (which assumes you know what they’re doing online). Install monitoring software to track their online whereabouts and log their messages (they’ll protest, but remember: as long as they’re boarders in your home, etc…). Protecting your own ID might be a lost cause. Leave your legacy by helping them protect theirs.
“Privacy” is a fallacy. It’s a lie, a relic from a by-gone era where we could protect such information (and when most people didn’t try to collect it). All we can do now is protect what we have left, or enroll in the witness protection program, pull our Internet connections, pay in cash – and then cross our fingers.
By Jeff Zbar – Writer & Speaker on Technology, Entrepreneurship, Home Officing, Telework & Work/Life Balance. Read the 'Home Office & Times' blog @ www.chiefhomeofficer.com.