totherme (totherme) wrote,

Random 11pm thought: Privacy through insecurity.

If you haven't considered the potential for (and potential dangers of) total lack of privacy in the information age, go watch this before reading the rest of this post.

I've met a whole bunch of cool new people in the last year, and I keep "in touch" with many of them primarily using facebook. You know how this story goes - you go to a conference or take a short course of gardening classes or something ; you meet new folk ; you spend a lot of time with them for a few weeks ; then you go your separate ways and communicate for a year or two only through the medium of broadcast "status updates" that can be read by anyone you've ever met.

One of the folk I met last year has been getting increasingly facebook-eccentric. They've been posting increasingly embarrassing and personal status updates, starting their own fan club, joining the support groups for controversial political parties, and most recently, writing long essays defending their strange and cultish religious views. Of course, none of that stuff was actually my new friend - all they're really guilty of is forgetting to log out of facebook after using a public terminal. Repeatedly.

So now, any time I see anything embarrassing on my new friend's facebook page, I'll just assume that they've left themselves logged in again, and someone's having a laugh at their expense. I don't know what's actually going on - I haven't seen or spoken to them in months. I'll just assume that anything "normal" is the truth, and anything out of the ordinary is a practical joke. And so will anyone else who knows them. If they run for the presidency of the US in 20 years time, and some journalist finds something juicy in the old digital records, the spin doctors will be able to laugh it all off. That wasn't our candidate - that was a well documented series of attacks by notorious hackers of the time.

Of course, this is just a special case of increasing the signal to noise ratio on the net - which you can do any number of ways. It's fairly well known that companies will post fake product reviews if they can get away with it. Perhaps we could all open large numbers of facebook accounts, and use each of them to communicate with 1/n of our friends. Perhaps spin doctors should spend their time inventing implausible stories about their candidates, and filling the net with them, so the real stories get lost in the mess. Perhaps they already do. I'm sure none of this is a new idea, but it tickled me that forgetting to log out, or having an easy to guess password might offer my friend more privacy in the long run, not less.

Also: I decided to try using the plural in this note - if anyone has an opinion on that vs GNPs or any other way of writing what I wanted to write, then feel free to comment.
Tags: gnp, information control, random

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