Wednesday, 20 July 2005

Privacy matters

Recently I've created a stir among a few people when I asked them to not refer to me with my real name whenever online. I cited privacy reasons for the rationale of it.

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to study Computer and Internet Security as an elective in my final year as an undergraduate. It helps me understand a bit about the intricasy or complexity of maintaining order in wide, wild world of the world wide web.

One of the things that I learn from the course is privacy. Privacy in the computer and Internet security context is seen as others having access to information about us while we are holding the power to control who can get the information, how much information should given away, when and with our awareness and consent.

Privacy is a right. Yours, mine and everybody else's.

We can share things about ourself with others online, and as a blogger, that's one of the reason behind the blog itself. But remember, it is we who chose to write about ourself and to put pictures about say, our friends' wedding, our bundle of joy, or your imaginary pet whale. We write and post pictures about things we want to share with others.

But sharing also means exposing ourself to not only the people who we know but to strangers as well. Thus, it is important for us to put an extra thought about what we post. Even in real life, we only share certain things with certain people.

When it comes to privacy, it's best to maintain a certain level of anonimity. We want people to know us, but not everything about us, especially about our private life. And how do we do that? Here are just some of the many suggested practices:
  • Don't easily give away our email addresses, real address, phone no. or credit card no. to untrusted parties.

  • Many sites and services requires you to at least give our email address upon registration and next thing we know the inbox is flooded with spam (unwanted junk mail). What to do? Open a special email account for sites and services registrations and use it exclusively for that purpose. Yahoo! Mail and GMail comes with (more than) 1 GB inboxes, plenty of space to trap those pesky spams should they find their way to our address.

  • Always read the agreement whenever signing up with any sites or services. The good news is most sites and services nowadays are against spam and pledge to not reveal information about you to party (yeah, they hate spam too).

  • For really sensitive and private email messages, try using encryption.

  • When we surf online, we leave a digital trail that gives away the sites that we visited which indirectly tells others about our online activity, preferences, what we buy and so on. If you prefer not to be tracked, you can surf using Anonymouse or Anonymous Browsing. Bloggers who blog about serious stuff and want to stay anonymous would want to try onion routing (blogging about sensitive issues has gotten people fired from their jobs and in some cases, jailed).

  • Try Googling yourself (use quotation marks like "your name here" for a specific name/phrase search). See how much of you is online. If nothing turns up: THAT'S GREAT!

  • Do you know that when we post or display our email online there are web bots ('robots' in the form of software) that crawls the Web looking for email addresses and collecting them for unknown parties? For a safer (and fancier) way to display an email address, try PrivacySig.
Anonimity can help fight against threats like identity thefts, where our personal information is used by other people masquerading as us to do things that like hacking or using our credit card to buy things online and making us pay for it; and invasion of privacy, where information about us are being divulged without our permission (sort of like being paparazzi-ed, but less glamorously).

There's no reason to stop we have been doing all these time which is telling people about what's going on with us in our blogs and so on. Just remember to be extra careful about what we say, how much, when and to whom. We should keep in mind about the privacy of others as well.

Blog safely and surf safely, everyone.


ieka said...

dlm lain perkataan aku maybe kena consider keluarkan nama penuh aku, tempat keje aku, email address aku dan juga gambar2 aku dr blog aku ek? whahah maybe laterla bile aku dah dpt 'hidayah':D

p/s: aku mmg 'degil' kan.. well, u know me:P

..brape byk aku daaa..

rol said...

up to u actually. if ur visitors r normally ur friends/family, there shudn't b any problem.

answer urself this: how much of u do u want the world to know?

ieka said...

hmm.. i want to meet only nice and good people out there.. boleh tak ckp cenggitu? :D secara jujurnya, ppl will know some part only.. and i dun reveal all to them in my blog.. so ok lah part tu..

dan secara realitinya, does the world mind about my existance?:P

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