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Pinky and the Brain vs. Privacy!

In her book Cyberliteracy,Laura Gurak tells us about the sobering fact that law enforcement agencies can legally use words that you have posted on the internet as evidence in a court of law (Gurak 112). Once you post a comment on a blog, or send an email, that information is no longer in your control. It makes me worry about how my own comments could be twisted and used against me.

Over the past few years I have been frequently posting comments on various news sites and blogs. The topic usually revolves around politics and our ailing election system. I've posted comments on topics regarding the electronic paperless voting machines that were furnished to some states by the Help America Vote Act. These untested machines were somehow supposed to be an improvement over the older machines that at least provided a paper record of citizen’s votes. I was outraged to find out that these new machines provided no reliable record of the votes that they were counting. An electronic tabulation could be manipulated or lost in the blink of an eye. Having a background in electronics, I know full well that it was a terrible decision to use these machines. So I voiced my outrage online and hoped it would make a difference.

Looking back, I wonder if anything I said could be used against me. I shouldn't worry, I never go over the top and call for people's heads or anything (oops I just did!). But it does get me wondering about people's rights to the words that they post on the web. It would be great if there were basic protections to people's postings. Maybe including your email address with you comments could be a sort of postage stamp that protects your words from ever being used against you. And if you are in fact an evil psycho, the authorities can then get a warrant to inspect your transactions.

I have to say that I am not a fan of the practice of data mining. When I'm online, I'd rather that my information stays private. I hear stories about how companies are taking and selling their client's personal information and I think that it's deplorable. Take Facebook for instance. Bruce Schneier claims that Facebook owns all of the data that its members upload to their site. Basically, Facebook can sell its customers personal data to anyone they wish. I think that it would a good idea if our government passed legislation that would prohibit this practice.

Another data nightmare that comes to mind is the frequent reports of corporate and government employees that somehow lose their laptop computers that contain the data and personal information of millions of people. There was an occurrence just recently where the Veterans Administration lost a hard drive that contained the data of 1.8 million people. The article claims that millions of social security numbers may have been lost. This loss of valuable data could hurt a lot of people. Here's the link to the story. http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/nation/4548367.html

As for Facebook in general, I just signed up so I don't know a lot about it. It's different from other networking sites like Myspace in that you can actually hook into local communities. This seems nice because you can communicate with people that live in your general area. In a way, I feel that this makes for more of a personal online community because the people that you interact with are actually living in your real world community. A community conundrum if you will!


Comments

You made a really good point about stolen corporate and govenenment laptops and PC's. There's also the old computers that were discarded without the information on the hard disks being properly erased. Yes, even if we do our best to protect our privacy, there are too many ways for our personal information to become public.

Great post again! I especially liked how you linked your right to free speech (responding online about election machines) to maybe having that come to haunt you later. Think of some of the truly outrageous blogs out there now, and if that will threaten the blogger's current employment or finding future jobs.

I read an article where, if I am recollecting it correctly, said the opposite is sometimes true, people who have written political blogs sometimes find work for campaigns, but have to tone down their rhetoric. Will they be held to account to what they said in the blog in the past? Stay tuned in 2008!

I also read that there was a female blogger who wrote an explicit blog about her dating life, and one of the 'characters', I can't remember whether he worked the White House or the Justice Department, was fired from his job because of it--now he is suing her. So that rule about being careful about including information about one's friends is useful in professional life as well.

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pinky and the brain vs privacy