Americans Don't Like Being Tracked

Good that this kind of poll is being conducted. Privacy is complicated. It is critical, sacred, protected, violated, dangerous and for sale. A lot of what we worry about does not matter, but other things we don’t know about do. Online privacy is only one of many privacy issues, but because it is bigger, faster and invisible (to many of us) it may be more important than other potential infringements. I tossed my PC and moved to Mac because I was spending precious time each day running spyware and other malware filters. My time was more valuable to me than privacy – in that case. But I am also glad not to be watched – or watched less, because my IP address is still watched by site visits.

Privacy shields will continue to grow in importance. As we eventually move away from fuel taxes to charging for road use by miles traveled, devices to meter your road use will need to be designed so that your location information is private. The EU is looking at this now and privacy commissioners there are insisting that location data never leave your vehicle. Ever. If technology is designed to prevent that completely, then you can drive anonymously, as you do now (excepting that your license plate can be read by a camera). But that leads to a gap in auditability. That can be addressed by writing to your handheld for only you to read, but that could leave an opening for privacy infringement, however small.

Regardless of what is done technically – legislated or not – we must address the definition of privacy on the road as well as in cyberspace. Roads are public, your use is a privilege, but your trip’s time and route is usually seen as private except partially when violating a traffic rule or driving through a toll booth. Interesting distinctions.

Even internet-enabled meters for power use in your home carry potential threats. Every new wireless – or wired – technology has privacy threats, and we will only be using more such technology.

Consider that the best way to protect privacy may be to set a price on personal data. Imagine that you can ‘dial-up’ what to hide, delete, sell, publish and receive advertisements about. Any commodity with a price will be protected far more carefully than you now know how to protect your own privacy. That will all be very complex so you’ll need a trusted broker to sell/hide that data for you. And governments cannot operate this service.

Does poorly-managed privacy in a consumer society exacerbate the cost to the planet? In a consumer society the cost (waste) in selling to you can be reduced if corporations could target more accurately and you would be exposed to less nuisance (waste of time, junk mail, spam).

Privacy Commissioners have their work cut out.

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