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Facebook and privacy – Dr Philip Lee Miller

 

I have been warning everyone for the last 20 years about privacy issues. Nobody seemed to care much. We had an early warning from Jeffrey Rothfeder, Privacy for Sale: How Computerization Has Made Everyone’s Private Life an Open Secret published in 1992. This was before the Internet was born in its current GUI format.

To prove how we were losing privacy even 26 years ago he was interviewed on a major show. The interviewer asked him just how fast he could find information on anybody. Okay. Give me a name. She said give me some information on Dan Rather. At that time was well known that Dan Rather was a very private individual offscreen. Rothfeder was able to find very detailed personal information about Dan within five minutes. Everyone was stunned.

Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose — Janis Joplin

But nobody cared much. I wonder whether this harks back to the famous line from Janis Joplin, “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” Early in life no one cares about privacy because there’s nothing much to lose. As we grow older there are more secrets to hide. Whether it be personal secrets, wealth or private information.

Now the problem with Facebook is a shared responsibility. You all give up so much information to Facebook without actually considering how this can be used or weaponized against you. All the information you provide can be shared even secondarily through friends. None of it is private.

Don’t believe Zuckerberg or Cheryl Sandberg of Facebook. None of this information is private. They don’t have sufficient safeguards. Remember, their goal is to sell information. That is how to accumulate wealth.

It proliferates. I have often seen various websites where the log-in offers you the possibility of a personal email with a password or alternatively, as a courtesy, just sign in with your Facebook or your Google account. More information is now being gathered. Every time you sign in using Facebook incredible information is being gathered.

Safeway

Even Safeway has been a master of information gathering. You know your Safeway discount card. The one that you swipe every time you go to the supermarket? That is another portal of information gathering. They know exactly when you are buying. What you are buying. Profiling your buying habits to the cent. Incredible amount of information has been gathered that can be shared. And don’t believe that they anonymize this. I don’t believe it.

Nothing is free. So all of you who are using gmail or hotmail or yahoo email are not sending private mail. All this email is probably being surveyed, stored and sold. SSL SMTP is slightly more secure.

So Facebook becomes a shared responsibility. No doubt, Cambridge Analytica was harvesting this stolen information from Facebook in Machiavellian and sinister ways.

Free email?

If you care, my suggestion is never use gmail or hotmail or Yahoo mail. Your own personalized email address is very simple. You can purchase your own vanity email address from GoDaddy dirt cheap. And you can use Go Daddy as your portal.

Personally, I have gone to the trouble of programming my own personal email server. Not something that I recommend for casual use. It took 2 to 3 months to perfect. But once perfected it is entirely private and nearly hack proof. Because the safeguards are so intensely strong.

So the overriding question remains, how much do you value your own privacy? How much are you concerned about the selling of your personal information?

I can tell you that even valid email addresses are being widely spoofed. Even though my email addresses are 100% certified with 3 widely accepted keys (DKIM, SPF and DMARC), last year one of my more common email addresses was being spoofed at the rate of 150,000 times weekly! No one cares. Everyone says nothing can be done. I don’t believe this. Not enough people care.

Spoofing is another form of identity theft. Where hackers are using your email address. To be honest, even I have never been able to understand how this is done. I only know through surveillance, it is very widespread and unknown to most of you.

Credit cards

You know that credit cards are being stolen at an increasing rate. The new embedded chips are an improvement.

HIPAA

In medicine we have been dealing with privacy issues protected by HIPAA. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. It is designed to thoroughly protect your health information.

But this one has the opposite effect. Unintended consequences. It is overly stringent with onerous safeguards and expensive fines for “violations” or “incursions.” It aims to protect your health information. But it actually hinders normal and timely communication between healthcare providers. And it does not protect against sharing information outside of the country.

All demonstrating that protection of privacy is an extremely complex issue. But it is a vital topic that needs constant vigilance.

Happy safe computing.

The writer is the MD, Founder, Medical Director and CEO of California Age Management Institute. [Courtesy – ToI]

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