Law in the Internet Society

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AlexLawrencePaperTwo 6 - 18 Jan 2009 - Main.AndreiVoinigescu
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What is the Price of our Privacy?

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 So much of the controversy surrounding Phorm centers around the American obsession with privacy and the corresponding misconception that any of our actions on the internet are in fact private. So what do you think would happen if the American public could see just how much of their personal information was in the hands of companies such as Google. I don't know how this could be accomplished, but it seems to me that maybe the attitude towards behaviorally targeted advertising and behavior tracking would change if people realized how much they have already let out of the bag. I know this is a strange and pessimistic argument, but it just seems to me that part of the problem in this whole fight is that many people are laboring under a delusional theory of just how "private" their life is. So maybe the way to get more people to consent to behaviorally targeted advertising so that it can improve to the levels where it can make a profit while paying for the above mentioned infrastructure costs is to start a campaign educating the public about what they have already consented to in the past in terms of giving away personal information on the internet.

-- AlexLawrence - 15 Jan 2009


Awareness and public education to lift the perception of privacy that many people still have is certainly a first priority, though perhaps that message is finally starting to get through: a majority of internet users are uncomfortable with targetted advertising and targeted website content.

I think, however, that most people still don't realize the full potential of the data they are giving away. They might know how they are monitored, and even have some idea of what third parties monitor, but they don't realize just how vulnerable that loss of privacy leaves them. The detailed insight about someone you can get through data aggregation and statistical analysis (enabled by the exponentially decreasing costs of storage and processing power) is so unprecedented that most just dismiss it as science fiction.

That's why the Pandora's box nature of personal information is so troubling: 'common sense' predisposes people to vastly underestimate what they're giving away. You either need a way to get them to fully appreciate the bargain they're striking before they open the box, or create some mechanism to revert the damage once the mistake is realized. Both tasks are daunting enough to leave one pessimistic.

-- AndreiVoinigescu - 18 Jan 2009

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Revision 6r6 - 18 Jan 2009 - 17:23:07 - AndreiVoinigescu
Revision 5r5 - 15 Jan 2009 - 19:01:27 - AlexLawrence
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