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'So much for anonymity these days'

'You know, this has me thinking.' By Mack Diesel.


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So much for anonymity these days. You know, this has me thinking:

  • Google already have your IP addresses. Your ISP knows your IP addresses.
  • Now Google will get your location through your WAPs. If your hardware has GPS capability, well there you go. They'll know where your hardware is at all times. Might as well stick a fucking RFID chip in you while they're at it.
  • Google AdSense and Google cookies already know your IP and where you go online.
  • Resistance is futile as many web sites have Google AdSense including Ubuntu Forums.
  • Gmail offers to link your other e-mail accounts (no thanks). If you opt in, they'll know about all of your other accounts.
  • Google own YouTube, so they know about each and every video you watch, regardless of whether you have a Google Account.
  • Like big media, they'll censor material that goes against the grain.
  • If you use Google Earth, they know about the places you visit and could probably figure out where you live. ('Hey I wonder what my place looks like on here.')

Mozilla could go on and on about privacy policies and all of this bullshit about unique identifiers but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to piece the information together.

Then there are the social networking sites.

Per today's Ars piece: Are 'deleted' photos really gone from Facebook? Not always.

Hope you don't have anything incriminating if you're on there. Then again this isn't exactly anything new; assume whatever you post to the Internet will always be there forever.

And let's not forget what we have already discussed about Facebook. For a good number of people, the Facebook walled garden has become their one-stop Flickr, e-mail, IM, Classmates/Reunion, and Twitter. Then there are the options to link your other site accounts together, such as letting everyone on Facebook know what you dugg over at Digg. What are TPTB at Facebook going to do with all of that information besides advertising - which if you're using ABP or some other ad blocker they'll never see anyway? One can only think of something sinister.

Tired of Facebook and want to get rid of it? Nope - you can't delete it. And even if you press them to delete it and they finally do so? How do you know that they really deleted it? What does that tell you when they don't really delete pictures?

These days with employers checking Google, Facebook, and whatnot (and even your bosses show up on those sites as well) you can't afford to fuck up when it comes to your online portfolio of yourself. And now with Firefox acting as a front for Google, they'll be able to keep tabs whenever you fire up Firefox (unless you know how to turn off the 'feature'). But who is to say that something nasty won't come along and turn it back on?

Sure, you could have multiple user names and handles, but at best that will serve as speed bumps to the clueless pencil pushers at HR departments looking to find out your background. Otherwise the different sites you visit and have login credentials with still have your IP addresses which can be cross-checked with ISP logs.

There will come a day where governments force Google, Facebook+1, and Microsoft to turn over user information. Or when students in secondary school now will run for political office in 20 years, all kinds of dirt from when they posted on the Internet at this present time will surface and cost them their runs. I'm not trying to steer this towards tinfoil, but it's scary to think about the worst case scenario: TPTB scraping up all of the web sites together, cross-checking all logs, and linking IP addresses, cookie information, your online billing accounts, and history to your login usernames as well as social networking information to build a complete and cohesive profile of you. They'll know about every site you visit, what you've said, and who your contacts are among other things. Who is to say that it hasn't already happened?

Again, this goes back to the argument about the Internet as a mechanism for freedom and information vs. a mechanism for control. In a way, cheap storage mediums and networking sites are double-edged swords. Consumers and J6Ps will love them, but they'll also serve as a huge repository for exploitation.

PS. I didn't even get to touch cable TV habits (especially if you have a cable company providing your 'high speed' Internet connection) or your commuting habits if you have one of those toll road transponders.

Maybe the tinfoil is starting to get a little tight. ;)

Mack Diesel is a technology writer who uses both Mac OS X, Ubuntu, and open source in general.

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