Friday, June 03, 2011

They know you more than you

Privacy is one of the most talked about topics of the information age. With more and more information generated it's bound to aggravate. As I see it privacy is two fold in our usage. One is the derived form (non-voluntary). The other is more straightforward where we submit our information to another party (voluntary). Many people are knowledgeable on what they submit to the World Wide Web or at least intrinsically think twice before doing so. If not, at least a bit of commonsense would do. This is of course assuming that you're really bothered about your personal information and hence privacy. But what about the other form, where someone else derives certain information on you based on various data? Additionally, you may think on the lines of a personality test. The first (and the last) time I sat for one, I scored pretty well. But a web based company could be in a better position of judging you with the amount of information gathered throughout the years. I intend of giving you some goose bumps largely based on these.

When we upload photos to Facebook, or post crazy status updates we are well aware of who could see them and the fact that Facebook stores it on their servers. Furthermore these sites have their own 'Terms of Use' & 'Privacy Policy' posted publicly although more often than not people really don't care reading them. As per internet statistics, the most popular, used and visited websites are Google, Facebook, Youtube, Yahoo, Live, etc. and are run by US based companies. This eventually creates a certain web centricity towards a certain geopolitical location as well. This blog is no exception either. Privacy when coupled with politics can be a tricky issue, where it's sometimes even referred to as intelligence. But the gravity of infiltration, harnessing and action taken upon depends on the country's laws and regulations.

Just imagine the amount of information your Gmail or Yahoo mailbox contains. From passwords & bank/credit card account information to communication with crushes, your fetishes and even porn are only a few to mention. Not excluding religious and political stuff as well. And it's not only free web mail services, but chat software such as Gtalk, Yahoo, MSN, etc might record your chat history although you may have opted to go-off the record. If you think that's all, just consider the amount of searching you'd done throughout the years using all those popular search engines. What's the assurance that these companies wouldn't store your search queries or for that matter any personally identifiable information including location data. Google even has a function that allows you to delete/manage your search history termed 'Google Web History'. So if you're still the kind of person who thinks that Google doesn't know anything about your multiple accounts, I say wakeup! that's such an insignificant thing.

Data mining technologies are the most used in deriving information or patterns from this data. In fact, our search & browsing patterns, Facebook likes, email contents and anything similar is sufficient of determining our personality and interests. This helps in creating a somewhat virtual personality of you. The integration or interconnection of social and other major web platforms have only helped it.

Then there are the types who say, "So what? I don't care what any web company or country knows about me, I feel totally OK with it". Actually I myself belong in that category. The purpose of this post was to enlighten the extra-cautious individuals who aren't very comfortable with this issue and not to drive you off the web. Who knows, someday we might just have to admit that's how it is. After all, wouldn't it be nice to see Google predict what you'd be up to this coming weekend?

Now why do I hear someone mutter "creepy…".