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Saturday, May 15, 2010

The other threats to our privacy

I have blogged many times on the threats to our civil liberties and privacy posed by Government and consequently I am delighted that the new Coalition Government is pledged to end the ID card scheme and the National ID database that goes with it.

However, as this article reveals it is not just government that poses these sorts of threats. The companies who provide the on-line services we use every day can be just as culpable.

The New York Times reports that Google has admitted that for more than three years it had inadvertently collected snippets of private information that people send over unencrypted wireless networks:

"The admission, made in an official blog post by Alan Eustace, Google’s engineering chief, comes a month after regulators in Europe started asking the search giant pointed questions about Street View, the layer of real-world photographs accessible from Google Maps. Regulators wanted to know what data Google collected as its camera-laden cars methodically trolled through neighborhoods, and what Google did with that data.

Google’s Street View misstep adds to the widespread anxiety about privacy in the digital age and the apparent willingness of Silicon Valley engineers to collect people’s private data without permission.

Facebook is currently engaged in a heated debate with its 400 million members about its shifting privacy guidelines, while Google has had to contend with other privacy missteps, like the introduction of its Buzz social network earlier this year that publicly exposed people’s closest e-mail contacts without permission."

Whilst the legal fall out of this admission works it way through the system it is worth thinking about what information we each make available in this way and whether we are comfortable about other people possibly having access to it.
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