Forget privacy? Big Brother is watching you

Now I don’t want to be accused of fear mongering, but I recently came across a website that has an alarming amount of my personal data on file without me knowing. In fact, if you live in the US, it probably has most of yours too.

I’m not averse to sharing my name; gender and email address (to approved contacts) on public forum websites like LinkedIn or Twitter. I’m happy to share a little more behind the walled garden of Facebook, but this website is extraordinary…

The service I am referring to is called Spokeo.com and it has no less than my name, gender, email address, age, phone number, marital status, education, occupation, home address, value of my house, family economic health, family lifestyle habits and ethnicity logged for anyone with an internet connection to peruse as they choose.

According to Robert Leshner’s recent article in Mashable “Data brokers are a self-regulated industry, which means they control how you can remove your information from their databases”. It’s a scary thought, especially when you consider that the US Privacy Rights Clearinghouse maintains a list of 147 of these companies! When Spokeo came to prominence in early 2011, Michael Arrington wrote this response to TechCrunch readers asking them to ‘expose’ the website like they did with ScamVille. His response? “There’s Absolutely Nothing You Can Do About Spokeo, So Stop Whining”.

In 1949, George Orwell added the final touches to his dystopian masterpiece Nineteen Eighty-Four. Incidentally, in 1984, Apple Inc. released the Macintosh computer. Ironically, Steve Jobs used this now infamous advert in homage to Orwell’s dystopia as a hook to fuel fear of an IBM oligarchy and encourage users break free from Microsoft monopoly. In 2012, as you’re probably reading this on an iPhone, the ‘user friendly’ Apple technology that we all know and love has been accused of propagating the next generation of ‘digital surveillance’.  For anecdotal value, there are now reportedly 32 CCTV camera’s within 200 yards of Orwell’s memorialized London residence!

Public census records are useful things, but when public information becomes so readily available to anyone with an ounce of malicious curiosity, the world becomes a dangerous place.

On the Gemalto Enterprise blog we’ve touched upon the security vs. convenience debate, discussed the significance of strong authentication and explored the devastating effects that failing to secure a professional network can have in healthcare. But ultimately, with technological advancement universally acknowledged to be doubling every 18 months, and BYOD policies currently the talk of the enterprise town, the only person truly responsible for keeping up with digital security trends is you.

If you’re a CIO, don’t forget, if you’re only being reactive about security, someone else is currently being proactive about acquiring your data – whether it’s your home address, or your favorite office password – Big Brother is watching you.

 

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