It was recently put to me that there are perhaps greater 'privacy invasions' to worry about than companies compiling all the electronic footprints we leave behind in this Web 2.0 world ours; only to store them in databases for clever commercial purposes, such as targeted marketing. Or as this person sarcastically put it (my translation):
The Facebook Fever that has ravaged this country for the entire month of May took a dramatic turn when someone realised that the information we provide about ourselves can be used to send us relevant advertisement. Experts encourage Facebook users to give careful consideration to whether or not they reveal themselves to be in the target group for sanitary towels or mineralwater ads.
You may laugh at me for still feeling a bit uneasy about this, but in countries like China, where the government is no stranger to confiscating such user data to police the opinions of its citizens, it is no laughing matter. Storing used data for a certain period of time also begets questions like: how much of this are the internet companies willing to share with government institutions when, and under what circumstances?
Which leads me to this interesting Wired article on data privacy (via Rebecca MacKinnon, Wired's RSS-feed is just too much for me so I keep getting backlogged):
The few souls that attempt to read and understand website privacy policies know they are almost universally unintelligible and shot through with clever loopholes. But one of the most important policies to know is your internet service provider's -- the company that ferries all your traffic to and from the internet, from search queries to BitTorrent uploads, flirty IMs to porn.
Wired News, with help from some readers, attempted to get real answers from the largest United States-based ISPs about what information they gather on their customers' use of the internet, and how long they retain records like IP addresses, e-mail and real-time browsing activity. Most importantly, we asked what they require from law-enforcement agencies before coughing up the data, and whether they sell your data to marketers.... here's what they found.