How to protect our privacy in digital world

Today, with Internet and all these electronic devices we can be connected to anyone at anywhere. Is this good? it depends, because everything comes with its own price. for using this technologies we have to giveaway a big part of our privacy and freedom!

The question i'm going to answer here with your help, is one of the most challenging questions of the modern world. The reason is because this question itself contains hundred of difficult sub questions.

The most dangerous of the modern days is the fact the this information can be easily misused.

Note : Privacy is nonreturnable , once you shared it there is nothing you can do to take it back.

First Question : What is privacy ?

The problem with this concept is that there is not any unified meaning for it. It's highly depends on personal perspective. Some people consider sharing their family photos on the Internet as a threat to their privacy , but some people even share their wedding photos or their new born baby.

Why it's so important (Not complete yet) ?

Imagine you want to go to specific country and they just refuse to give you passport , and when you ask them why they don't respond, so you might ask yourself why? why they don't give to me? but you don't know that ten years ago while you were chatting with your friend via gtalk you said some very terrorist stuff you were joking of course, but the computer AI written back then couldn't understand jokes. or maybe you weren't joking and you've been quite serious , but for gods sake it was 10 years ago , who cares, it turned out the some people do. You can't do anything about it, because you shared private piece of information unknowingly and there are people that are using it against you.

Now days we're surrounded by social networks like Facebook , hi5 and cloud services like google desktop search, google docs , etc. we don't have any control over our information on this services, they say that they will remove our information while after we delete them. but history proved that there is no trust in corporation specially giant ones. there is only money , power and benefit.

The question is how dangerous it's , as a pro developer for over 10 years. i must says that abusing this information in various ways is child's play, almost any skilled developer can retrieve or generate any kind of statistic based on this actually very accurate.

more than 300 million people are using Facebook , they share every bit of information accurately with their friend. they even tag photos to say who's in it. if Facebook does not sell this information i must say they are stupid, because for Facebook as corporation this information are just tool valuable to ignore. they're actually priceless. there are many many companies after this information.

Although it sounds quite disappointing , but it doesn't mean that there is no solution, they might be expensive or experimental but if we really care about our private life. my information is mine , i should be able to destroy them anytime anywhere i want. no one has the right to take control of my private information. i'm not saying that we shouldn't use social network. people which are using them either don't know how dangerous they can be , or can't refuse to use them because everyone else does and we can't isolate our self. we're living in 2010 that's almost impossible.

For solving this problem we need to united, get together, work together. something that Internet makes possible, and we should use it. i propose a foundation , run by people contribution and donations , it will have board of directors including , site webmaster , law , hiring manager, fundraiser , these people make decision by voting and ask us for participation when it's possible. these people themselves will be elected by us every year.

registration on this site should be validation because we don't want anyone to interfere and fake vote for their chosen directors, hiring manager has to select people already involved in privacy protection.

Update : There is a foundation called Electroinc Frontier Foundatoin (EFF) , and they are actually very active and known.  I'll get in contact with these guys soon.

We can't protect our privacy alone ?!

Sadly it's true. We can't protect our privacy alone because our privacy is getting violated every hour by our own friends and family. But what can we do about it ?! The first action might be asking them politely to respect our privacy by not sharing personal photos videos from us.

An interesting qoute by Larry :

Earlier today, one of the people I follow tweeted that his young (under 5, I believe) daughter had just done something stupid. Nothing illegal or immoral, just the sort of embarrassing and sometimes destructive stupidity that young children tend to get into. And he then tweeted it.

Which means that his under age daughter's actions are now part of the permanent archive of the US government.

Want to know more ?

I read a Novel by Dan Brown called Digital Fortress while ago, the book is old (1998!) and it's fictional but it contains very valuable information and most of it is based on facts , you can read the Interview with Dan Brown , i was specially interested in his answer to this question "What was your inspiration to write Digital Fortress?"

The Website of the book is no longer available but it's still accessible here , and also here is author's website

From other sites

I recently stumbled upon an interesting article How Privacy Vanishes Online, a Bit at a Time - NYTimes.com. It seems that people are starting to get worried finally which is a good sign. It contains some useful information and also some practical examples of how dangerous undertaking privacy can be. So i recommend it.

#Reality check | GarfieldTech Larry has some good points in his recent article. I also updated this article to include some of his points.

Good-Bye to Privacy? - PCWorld

Practical Solutions

What to do when sharing

When you're about to put something personal on the Internet ask this questions first ?

  • Do i want to share it at all?
  • Do i want to share it with the rest of the world forever?
  • Do i want my friends to have a copy of it on their computer so they can share it with the rest of the world whenever they want?

Distributed Social Networks

If you're a Facebook user (Which most likely you're!) probably you have heard of the critical security issues Facebook users are facing now days. This issues as well as recent sudden awareness of Internet privacy (Anti Facebook Movement) is causing people to innovate new ways for solving this major issue. One of this ideas which is similar to what i suggested here before is Distributed Social Network and several teams are working to make it happen. I don't think it's going to solve the privacy issue directly but at least it let us choose the best social network service without loosing our connections.

More Facebook alternatives are becoming available every day, looks like we just have to wait and see :)

There are several technologies available right now which can help us to have more control over our information and at the same time stay active in social networks. They do not help us to take back what we shared but at least give us much more options in how we share and protect our private information.

These are not just theoretical solutions or simply specification a committee dreamt up. They are all technologies that work today.

Ideas / Potential solutions

Just an idea (I'll put it in the right place later)

After watching an interview with Mark Shuttleworth i think an idea is getting shaped on my mind. What we need today is non centralized servers, it can become possible using cloud computing , but the ones that giant corporations offer. The ones we offer, our computers can become nodes and they can host other services to run in a isolated environment, or share extra resources thorough the Internet. I know it's complicated and i don't have any practical plan or how it can be implemented. But imagine this. A Facebook that runs on it's users' computers. None of this computers have the whole information, you can simply block your own information if you no longer like to share it.

Another idea

Another solution which i think is practical (not for everyone because it requires personal site or blog on a private server) is separating our personal information into two categories personal and private. Many social networks now days offer API and it's possible to integrate them into our sites. So it possible to give people we trust access or limited access to our private information without forcing them to register on our website. We can remove this access whenever we want and since our information is stored on our own server we can fill a bit more secure. Yes people with private access can still copy this information and put them on the Internet , so we need to be more careful when we give someone access to private section but anyway even if someone does it, that information is not as credible as something we share our self. Now days anyone can fake photos via Photoshop or modify videos or texts.

Free (As in free speech) Software

I almost forgot to mention that Free Software plays a critical rule for solving this issue. Without truly Free (Freedom not money) software the only option is to stay away from Digital World! How can we support free software movement? there are many ways. 1.By replacing our commercial softwares with Free softwares 2.Donating to the Free Softwares we're using 3.Spreading the word 4.Writing a free software and sharing it with the world. 5.Making our developer softwares GPL compatible etc

Separating work and personal activities

One of the effective way for protecting privacy is separating work and personal activities by using different names , services , etc. In work activities we usually have to use our real name, but the same does not applies to personal ones. This trick makes it difficult for others to find us on the Internet. Note that there are face detection softwares which can find us by simply searching our sample picture on the Internet. Soon we will so public services offering it!! so it's better if we actually never share a photo publicly while we're doing personal activities.

To be continued...

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