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6 ways we gave up our privacy

Bill Brenner | Oct. 14, 2009
Here's how privacy went the way of the dinosaur, how we let it happen and how we might be able to get some of it back

"Privacy is evaporating because Facebook, Myspace, Twitter and blogs are raising a generation of kids and adults who have no concept of privacy or the ability to truly understand that nothing digital is ever forgotten or destroyed," said Raj Goel, owner of security compliance consultancy Brainlink International Inc. "Ten years from now, kids will be Googling their mommy's spring break pictures and their daddy's Facebook profile, if they don't do so already."

3. RFID tags and loyalty cards

In this fast-paced world, people use special transponders to blow through highway toll stations without stopping and pay for gas without having to swipe a credit card. Then there are those cards you present at the grocery store for discounts. All have technology that can be used to track your movements and habits, right down to the time of day you typically go through a toll plaza each morning on the drive to work.

"Let's add RFID chips, the Real ID Act and the PASS Act to the list as well. How about chips in passports? We're lulled into a false sense of security and people aren't realizing that they are simply giving those rights to privacy away," said Julie Davis Friend, president of Gemstone Partners, a firm that advises organizations on issues surrounding identity theft and new legal requirements."

4. The Patriot Act

Given all the debate about the evils of The Patriot Act and how it gave the government a ridiculous amount of power to spy on people, we often forget that citizens were perfectly comfortable giving away privacy in the immediate aftermath of 9-11, when people were consumed with the desire to stop the next terrorist attack from happening. Many a security expert will argue that the law did indeed improve our safety and prevent more attacks. In other words, enacting it was the right thing to do. But it's also universally accepted that civil liberties were eroded under the law.

Notes Zurawski: "The Patriot Act granted broad powers to law enforcement to enter your home with 'probable cause' and no warrant."

5. GPS

GPS navigation used to be a luxury item. Now most of us use the technology. It's relatively inexpensive to buy a GPS device that's bolted to the dashboard. Higher-end cars come with built-in GPS. And there are plenty of free navigation apps available for the BlackBerry and iPhone. The flip side to fewer people getting lost is that the providers of those systems can track your whereabouts without breaking a sweat.

6. The Kindle

Here's one you may not have seen coming. The increasingly popular Kindle allows us to tear through books on the go. But the device also "keeps track of what you read, how quickly you read it, what you may have read over several times, and can delete content you've paid for without your knowledge should it become 'necessary,'" Zurawski said.

 

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