Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Big Brother - it's not who you think

George Orwell foresaw a future with no privacy and no security from government control. We aren't there yet. Not with the government. With corporations it's almost completely a done deal. But that can be changed.

It can be changed, but only if enough people are willing to take charge of their own information. Willing to be inconvenienced by denying cookies and turning off scripting. Willing to use private browsing all the time. Willing to leave Facebook until it the privacy policy is improved and enforced. In short, willing to force corporate America to change the way they gather marketing information.

Don't think it will be easy. The tracking information gathered when we search, buy, or just surf the web has become almost indispensable. Or at least corporations think it has. They won't willingly give it up.

I'm not sure most of us will be willing to give it up, either. A lot of the convenience of the web is a direct result of that data gathering. The nice personalized pages, the suggested items on eBay, Amazon, etc. are all a result of gathering and keeping data. Using your Facebook or Twitter sign-in to log-in to other sites requires gathering and sharing data.

Most of these things could probably be done with less tracking and data gathering. But they won't be unless we insist on it. And without insisting on simplified privacy policies written in plain English things will go back to the way they were. The sad truth is, even with privacy policies, the data gathered and held is still outside of our control.

The truth is, to enjoy any activity there has to be give and take. It only becomes a problem when one side either doesn't know what it's giving, or the exchange is far more beneficial to one side than the other. Most people do not realize just what they are giving up simply by participating in online life. If they did, they might not think they were getting their money's worth. They should be given the opportunity to make that choice.

If you would like to get a basic idea of just what can be figured out about you online you might try searching for your own name in Google, Bing and Yahoo. Depending on how active you are online, you might be surprised.