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Monday, April 11, 2011

Online Privacy: Survival of the Fittest in the 21st Century

Here’s an interesting op-ed article about privacy by one of my favs Leonard Pitts, Jr.

Older generations are definitely more concerned about online privacy than younger generations. You have to remember that there was a time, not too long ago in America, when people were openly persecuted for private information such a cultural, religious and political affiliation.

Lack of privacy stirs up angst in generations that lived through those times. I do feel that the younger generation lacks discretion, but I think this is something that parents are just going to have to teach their children.

Reality television and a quest for celebrity has everyone putting their personal lives on “front street.” Some people just have to learn the hard way what is and what is not for public consumption. Natural selection... survival of the fittest in the 21st century.

Censorship is not a option.

Privacy: There’s no app for that

So, let’s say there’s this truly fine individual standing there across the room, and you’d like his or her name, number and email address, but don’t want the hassle of walking over and risking rejection.

There’s an app for that. Well, not yet, but eventually there will be.

CNN reported last week that Google is at work on a facial recognition application that would allow you to snap a portrait of a given somebody with your cellphone and receive that person’s name and contact information. The function would be added to Goggles, an existing application that allows users to snap a picture of an object or building and have it identified.

And here, Google would want you to know that none of this is imminent. Though the technology has existed for years, and there is a demand for it, Google says that it has no plans to make the app available until or unless it can find a way to address the obvious privacy concerns. At a minimum, the app would require an opt-in clause, meaning a person would have to specifically agree to allow access to his or her information.

Google issued the following statement: “As we’ve said for more than a year, we will not add facial recognition to Goggles unless we have strong privacy protections in place. We’re still working on them. We have nothing to announce at this time.”

Duly noted. And consider me not mollified in the least.

In the first place, no one allowed me to opt out before that picture of my home appeared on Google Maps.

In the second place, this is the same Google that last year agreed to an $8.5-million settlement and last month agreed to 20 years of government privacy audits after publishing on its social networking site the names of people with whom its users regularly emailed.

In the third place, given the lack of judgment for which young people are notorious and the career- and life-damaging images and information they routinely post online, it is hard to be sanguine over Google’s promise to require users of the new app to opt in.

One can too easily imagine some girl opting in because it’s new and sounds like fun — only to wake up one night to find some guy standing beside her bed firing up a chainsaw. [READ MORE]
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