July 5, 2001
7:20 PM   Subscribe

As if you weren't depressed enough, now the world knows you're taking Prozac
posted by fooljay (6 comments total)
On a more serious note, it seems like this sort of thing will be an ever-increasing problem as old-world companies find the net. Makes me nostalgic for AOL users circa 1994...
posted by fooljay at 7:22 PM on July 5, 2001

On a more comic note, it seems like this is an opportunity for Sam Malone (Cheers) or Larry Dallas (Three's Company) to really score. They both enjoyed "marketing" themselves to lonely, sad women.

Hey - just kidding. I know this is serious stuff. But you know something? I pretty much have believed for several years now that there is absolutely nothing of my *private* life that won't be "out there" in public view someday, somehow.

In a similar vein, Sun chief Scott McNealy said something back in '99 that echoes what I believe will happen, whether we like it or not: "You have zero privacy anyway...get over it." Whether you agree or not, this is likely going to be reality someday...so either plan accordingly or get used to sharing your secrets with the world.
posted by davidmsc at 8:06 PM on July 5, 2001

well, this was clearly a mistake, but there are two things that have bothered me for a long time:

1) a website can change their privacy policy at any time. I think they should be bound either to honor the privacy policy you signed up for (an administrative nightmare) or to send a notice to anyone who logged in to say that the policy has changed, and you have 20 days to log in under the new policy (and here are the changes we've made) or your information will be purged from our system.

2) there are no penalties for abuses or mistakes that are made with people's information. as long as there are no penalties, there are no protections - companies just say, "oops, our bad!" and that's the end of it.
posted by rebeccablood at 8:10 PM on July 5, 2001

I agree with you, rebecca, although there CAN be penalties. Unfortunately the FTC is too weeny to dole them out. They usually come in the form of lawsuits, which, I might point out, your tax dollars don't pay for.

davidmsc, have you ever read 1984?? Seriously, not having privacy is a fairly benign thing, unless you have something to hide. The problem is, when you take away someone's right to personal privacy and combine that with the thought police mentality which is in full force here on Metafilter and even stronger throughout the world, you have a very very scary society. At that point, we ALL have something to hide.

Read this article by Dan Gilmorr. It is crucial that we continue to protect the individual and their freedoms from larger entities which want to use them strictly for profit or control them to achieve total power.

I don't agree that it's a foregone conclusion that our privacy will be eroded to nothing. I do believe that's true if we don't do something about it. Regardless of whether or not you believe in that, there are people, like me, fighting for your right to privacy. Try not to make it too difficult for us or we'll leave you off of the list. ;-)

On a related note, someone asked me recently how I could be a big privacy advocate and simultaneously splay my life out there for all to see. It's very easy. I, and I alone, choose what I do and don't put out there. My right to choose what I display (which is the flip side to my right to privacy) is all important.

As far as McNealy, he is notorious for shooting from the hip. He said those words as a deflection of questions regarding Jini's privacy features. Sun didn't do their homework with Jini, so McNealy deftly absorbed the furor himself to take the focus away from Jini. He took one for the team. Whether or not it hurts Sun in the long term is still an open question.

If you read his editorial piece in the Washington Post, you'll see that he's not at all against privacy, in fact, he's quite for it. He's against mandated absolute privacy. He believes that we as a society need to give up a bit of privacy to make our society work. The more privacy we give up, the more convenient it is for us to live. Of course, I agree with him. However, the problem with giving up all of you privacy is that there are people in this society ready to abuse you.

It would be more convenient for me to leave my car door unlocked and my key in the ignition, in fact, to remove all of the lock-and-keys from my life. That would be great, except that I would quickly find that I no longer owned anything.

Whether or not we choose to use it, we all should have the freedom to protect ourselves from harm.

P.S. If you haven't read this book, DO: The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose Between Privacy and Freedom?
posted by fooljay at 10:53 AM on July 6, 2001

Oh, and one more thing. I think it would be really really interesting if we had absolutely no privacy. And I mean "we" in the Transparent Society model. NO ONE, the President, the police, the next door neighbor. I could look into anyone's life at any time and they could look into mine.

Why? Because it would expose a great deal of hypocrisy from those who condemn others actions. If we were all forced to be completely open, not only would crime disappear, but so would the repressions in our society.
posted by fooljay at 10:58 AM on July 6, 2001

Jesus, the Commerce Department is yet another case-in-point:
A Commerce Department privacy website exposed proprietary information -- such as revenue, number of employees, and the European countries with which the firm does business -- that U.S. companies provided to the government in strict confidence.

This information has been publicly accessible since the site went online last year.

Casual visitors even could modify information stored in the agency's database, permitting anyone to delete, for instance, Microsoft, Intel, or Procter & Gamble from a government-certified list of companies that can freely exchange information with European firms.
posted by fooljay at 3:50 PM on July 6, 2001

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