Saturday, April 25, 2009

Shadow of Privacy

Is there such a thing as privacy online?

First of all, what is privacy? One definition given (on-line) is:
a. The quality or condition of being secluded from the presence or view of others.
b. The state of being free from unsanctioned intrusion: a person's right to privacy.

There has been much talk about individual digital footprints, but what about our digital shadow? Our footprint is left from online activity that we initiate ourselves. We sign up, post, upload, share and on and on. What about all the times we are the "stranger in the background of the picture?" What about all the times someone forwards an email message to everyone in their list of contacts? I come from a small town, and I must have the names and email addresses for about half the residents there through forwarded emails. That means that they also have my name and address which are being sent to people all over the world on forwarded email messages that go on forever.

In reality, there is no such thing as privacy online. With effort and constant vigilance, a person might be less in the view of others. However, if one chooses to surf the internet, use email, have a blog or a site on Facebook or otherwise engage in ‘social networking’ you have compromised your privacy.

According to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, if you have signed up for Internet service, you have an ISP. Your ISP provider can connect your IP address with information you provided at registration to reveal the person behind the IP address. Your search history can be tracked and stored using your IP address. It is possible that a search engine could reveal the IP address behind a particular search or series of searches. If your ISP revealed the account information behind the IP address your identity could be linked to your search history. Google has a collection of videos with advice for protecting your privacy online. They assure the public that they do not/cannot trace or record your IP address, but there are always others who might.

The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse also gives this tip: It's a good idea to avoid using the same web site for both your web-based email and as your search engine. Email accounts will always require some type of a login, so if you use the same site as your search engine, your searches can be connected to your email account. By using different web sites for different needs -- perhaps Yahoo for your email and Google for your searches -- you can help limit the total amount of information retained by any one site. This makes me wonder about Gmail, Google Reader, Google docs, and iGoogle. Should we be using all resources from the same web site?

When you post information or pictures on one of these (social networking Web) sites, remember that if you want to remove it later there is no law protecting your decision. Unlike a note passed in class, which can be torn in a million little pieces, an Internet posting may not be so easily destroyed. Currently, companies are required to honor posted privacy policies. If a site’s privacy policy says it will remove information and the site refuses, you should file a complaint.

Does ISB’s AUP take this issue into account?

The ES AUP says, Suggestions for appropriate use
· Network storage areas are treated like school lockers. They are respected as belonging to individuals, but are open to inspection by ISB administrators.

· Passwords (to prevent access by unauthorized people into computers) will only be installed on computers when there is a good reason. The Network Administrator will be responsible for installing and keeping a record of all passwords.

ISB’s ES AUP makes no direct reference to privacy online. There is a slight reference to the use of passwords. This policy clearly needs updating.

No comments:

Post a Comment