back to article Vint Cerf: 'Privacy may be an ANOMALY, now over'. And it's no secret I think that

Vint Cerf has said that expectations of privacy in the digital age may be impossible to achieve because of the level of oversharing that takes place on social media sites. The internet pioneer said during a chat about wearable computers at a US Federal Trade Commission workshop that "it will be increasingly difficult for us to …

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Social behavior is quite damaging to privacy...

.... mostly when it is exploited for profit by people like Vint's present employer and for evil by the government that funded him to build the ARPANET in the first place. I seem to be missing the "mea culpa" tweet.

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Re: Social behavior is quite damaging to privacy...

How you can possibly default to a government, which has proven itself to be so incredibly bureaucratic that it hardly functions in many areas, to be evil is beyond me. Furthermore, you obviously have some sort of internet provider. I'm going to assume your bank has online services. You may have a credit card. You probably have a cell phone carrier. With all of these, there is an inherent risk to your data (never mind social media and its implications based on your and others' behavior).

In this age, the "violation" of your privacy as it relates to interconnected digital systems is an inevitability that can be traced back to you, the user/customer... either directly or indirectly.

My advice? Learn to love the bomb.

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Re: Learn to love the bomb

I don't like what you said, but I can't fault your arguments.

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Slaps forehead with palm.....

"Our social behavior is quite damaging to privacy. Technology has outraced our social intellect,"

I guess that's what usually happens when you give powerful computers to everyone.......

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Happy

Re: Slaps forehead with palm.....

Technology has outraced our social intellect,"

or it's a simple case of the computers being a honey-trap. We fall all over ourselves, spilling our guts for all the world to see. Stoopid, stoopid, stoopid us!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Slaps forehead with palm.....

"I guess that's what usually happens when you give powerful computers to everyone......."

Not necessarily. It also depends on what people CHOOSE to do with computers. I own no portable gadgets - my smallest piece of kit is a ThinkPad running OpenSuSE - and I do not participate in Facebook, Twitter, etc. Anyone who wants to telephone me has a choice of two landline numbers. When I'm out, I'm out.

However I find my computers invaluable for writing, coding, browsing the Web, and generally doing things that I consider worthwhile. Oh, and I run World Community Grid, Einstein@Home, and ClimatePrediction.net under BOINC in background, which is my contribution to charity. (Why pay money to an organization so it can hire half a dozen suits for £100,000-a-year plus each, when you can simply help it do its number-crunching?)

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Anonymous Coward

If you want your private life to remain private

don't post it on the internet.

I am amazed at how many people don't understand this.

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Re: If you want your private life to remain private

well until you go to a wedding and get caught in 100 photos by others, who duely upload the photos to facebook and tag you in them. Facebook now knows your name and what you look like. It can figure where you live too, and more given your family might have accounts.

One day Facebook will be inevitably hacked. Years of user data (wall, history, messages, photos) will be stolen and dumped online. In the future with more cloud storage this data will be duplicated enough that it cannot be taken down.

There is no privacy because there is no guarantee where the data will end up next year. Hell even Facebook could in some demented move decided to make all user data from 2000-2010 public.

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Re: If you want your private life to remain private

Companies start sharing data with each other. Eg perhaps a supermarket end up doing a deal with facebook, so that Facebook has access to loyalty card data, ie all your shopping purchases going back years. The supermarket likewise has access to your profile info, who your friends are, etc. Or perhaps it's car insurance companies sharing data with facebook, or credit agencies. Your employer, the government (tax man). All of them sharing data with each other for supposed efficiency and benefit. The more data they have, the more other things they can deduce about you, things you haven't even said.

Yes data protection laws are meant to prevent data sharing, but wait for companies to start pushing governments into watering down such laws. Or really they don't have to, they just need to supercede them, reword them, remeaning them. "Join together". They'll add stuff into small print, even big print, and it'll become acceptable. If you really want that broadband subscription you'll need to agree to sharing your data with a Consortium of companies.

The Consortium, a group of 612 wide ranging international corporations who have built a shared database of customer/user data which benefits them all. Becoming a customer of one company and the data can be seen by all of them.

It's already beginning. Look at how in recent years online accounts are starting to be "linked" together. An account on youtube? That'll need to be linked to your gmail account. Maybe link in your yahoo account too. Want to sign up to post comments on a news site? You will need to register with your Facebook account. Cookies and ubiquitous "like button" style icons track every website users visit.

Vast machines crawling over all this human data trying to infer facts about customers. Playing off one customers data against another. Things you never put online are figured out by these machines instantly. Eg perhaps they deduce that every year in July you go on holiday to Spain, they can even guess where and when you will go next year and likely who you will meet there. They figure out you aren't that interested in sport (from purchases and lack of sport related comments on twitter/facebook). They even classify your psychology from your purchases and friends - and videos you've watched online and search engine searches you've made. You are a type N7 male, you are most exploitable by method 7, you are attracted to type B females. There is a 90% chance that you will favor product N. If Company N does X, you will have a 77% likelyhood of doing Y. Your profit retrieval potential warrants a joint action by companies B and C. If you won't supply more data, they'll ask your friends for it, subtly of course, so they don't know they are doing it.

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Re: If you want your private life to remain private

In the future with more cloud storage this data will be duplicated enough that it cannot be taken down.

There are plenty of places you can buy fake social networking profiles. These days they're used by PR companies to give their sock-puppet comments some sense of verisimilitude. If things get that bad, I'm sure that companies will step in to fill a gap in the market to provide fake profiles for people who want to protect their privacy. You might not be able to take down all the shit that mentions or shows you, but you can splatter enough fake stuff that you cast doubts about whether that dodgy page you'd rather not have people see is real or whether it's even you. As Lou Reed (channelling Poe) put it, "don't believe half of what you see, and none of what you hear". Facebook? "Stick a fork in it--it's done"

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Anonymous Coward

Re: If you want your private life to remain private

Facebook has ALREADY been hacked...ever heard of the NSA? Just add those faces to the billions of driver license/passport photos that the NSA ALREADY HAS, mix in some good facial recognition software and the number of the beast will be measured in megapixels.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: If you want your private life to remain private

> If you want your private life to remain private don't post it on the internet.

I'm afraid that's quite disingenuous. Much of what is made public about individuals is not under their direct control.

Someone has given the Facebook wedding example. Other instances are: when your name appears on any public records (company records, electoral rolls, official gazettes, ...), when you for whatever reason make the news (you're an athlete and appear in competition results, which are btw aggregated by various sites that create "your profile", you're a researcher who publishes papers─also aggregated─or you have made a noteworthy discovery, you found oil in your backyard, ...)

I hope you get that idea.

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Meh

Re: If you want your private life to remain private

"One day Facebook will be inevitably hacked. Years of user data (wall, history, messages, photos) will be stolen and dumped online. In the future with more cloud storage this data will be duplicated enough that it cannot be taken down."

Ah, Facebook. I remember Facebook. I tried it once, for a very short time. I didn't put anything important or significant on it, and I didn't use my real name. I sacked them. I keep wondering if I should have another go. Then I wake up.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: If you want your private life to remain private

Completely true - I have the misfortune to work on software which tries to achieve this. Fortunately, it gives me a chance to sabotage the worst excesses. Anon for obvious reasons.

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Re: If you want your private life to remain private

don't post it on the internet

A corollary is that someone else will post it, if you did it in public. As the old adage goes,

"Don't make love by the garden gate // Love is blind but the neighbours ain't"

I think the deeper psychological problem is an expectation of forgetfulness. The internet's memory isn't human, and rarely forgets anything. (Something that can also be said of a certain type of sociopath).

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Re: If you want your private life to remain private

"Other instances are: when your name appears on any public records (company records, electoral rolls, official gazettes, ...), when you for whatever reason make the news (you're an athlete and appear in competition results, which are btw aggregated by various sites that create "your profile", you're a researcher who publishes papers─also aggregated─or you have made a noteworthy discovery, you found oil in your backyard, ...)"

None of these examples invade your privacy and none of them are different now from how they were a generation ago. What's different now is that people choose to put genuinely private material online (apparently in the belief that the web is like one-way glass) and the way that a computer can automatically trawl through everything so there's no need to hire a traditional private eye to build a file on a random person. The first is the technology out-stripping our social intelligence and I was reading the other day that present-day teens are much more wary about social media than the previous generation. (This is the "Facebook is for parents" generation.) The second might well remedy itself if the next generation grows up to view such trawling as grossly invasive, like peering through a bathroom window.

Society has changed an awful lot since we were running around on African grasslands. The legal framework is often one step behind technological reality but rarely more than two. It is within our power to protect privacy and my guess is that future generations will do just that.

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Big Brother

Vint Cerf is a "silver tongued Devil"...

...Mind you, so was Goebbels...didn't pan out too well for him as i remember.

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Re: Vint Cerf is a "silver tongued Devil"...

Good point, but much too kind ...

Had Goebbels survived the war he would have been in the docket at Nuremberg where many of his colleagues got theirs for crimes committed before war broke out.

It turns out that whatever is being said in the Chocolate Factory Executive Suite bubble, "planning an aggressive war" is not an ANOMALY at all, Vint.

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One does have some choice

not over what is shared, expect (whether this be the case or not) everything one does on line to be logged, shared and sold.

What one does have control over is the quality and content of that information and "who" it is associated with.

I run a business, I use google+ Farcebook and linkedIn to promote that business. These profiles are all separate but the content is more or less identical. These social sites are advertising my business NOT me.

My non professional profiles and identities on line are many and I do my best to ensure they are separate from each other and most important, separate from the image I wish to create for business.

My personal life and my business are separate. I have no desire to expose my personal life on line to a bunch of strangers labelled by an ad agency as "friends" or "contacts". On the other hand I wish to expose my business and my professional persona to as many prospective clients as possible.

It is the responsibility of the individual to ensure their own privacy by restricting or simply providing false information where the request for such information is deemed invasive by said individual.

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Black Helicopters

Re: One does have some choice

Providing false data is the only approach that has any chance of obfuscating your details - expect it to be made illegal in the next couple of years (probably in order to protect the children).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: One does have some choice

I trust that you use totally different computers for the separate compartments of your business and private life, on different networks …. It would be trivial to connect all the users on a common IP address, for instance.

Sadly, I suspect that not particularly clever attribute matching will actually gain even more by working out all the connections that we try to obscure, with the help of all the people contacting you over the internet, in all innocence, via email and so on.

On the other hand, there is no need to give yourself away to Google+ or Yahoo, providing all sorts of personal details that could make you a hostage to fortune willy nilly. At least one can keep your personal traces to a minimum.

Mind you, I write as someone whom an old colleague spent months trying to track down (along with our fellow students) and said that I was the hardest and longest to find. He finally found me via a single mention of my wife on a certain site (not the usual culprits).

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Re: One does have some choice

Oh, already have multiple layers of fake info on certain 'social' networks, and I'm not on certain others at all. My Google profile, for example, has a very interesting pic which is NOT me.

And even if TPTB try to make posting fake info illegal, they have a problem... finding me. I do admit that posting pix such as the one I used for Google might make things easier, but I really don't care. Worst case I'll just remove all pix and all data. People who know me know where and how to find me; I've had the same Gmail address since the year Gmail first became available. People who don't know me can kiss my behind... if they can find it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: One does have some choice

> expect it to be made illegal in the next couple of years

It already is. Try registering a company in the UK while keeping your (real) name out of the internet.

I would have preferred companies house to have my real name, which I understand needs to be accessible to those who have an interest, but they do not seem to see a problem with plastering it all over the internet. So the two alternatives that I could think of were: a) change name by deed poll, register company, change name again, or b) nominate someone else as director. Ok, there was also c) register company as a branch of a foreign company registered in a country which is a little bit more discreet when it comes to these matters, but it wasn't worth it in my case.

Not great choices, any of them. :(

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Black Helicopters

Re: One does have some choice

Assuming for a brief moment that we are all at least a little more tech savvy that the average user, how ould you go about maintaining your false identity/ies? Relatively unclever programs can match originating addresses, so if you have, say, one persona for each of five online sites, they'll be profiled and added to one or more sales packs. Now you have the problem of logging in to a new site. That site might already have info on one of your 'aliases', but which one? YOU don't know, you have to guess. Or you invent yet another persona. Either way, that gets added to the profile for your originating address/es. If it's a new one, it's added. If it's an existing one, but not the one that site has, it goes looking for that persona. Oh, here it is, in Farcebook, aggregate it.

Big Data isn't just big, it's SMART. Algorithms get cleverer year by year, matching processes become more and more complex.

And the more sites you login/register with using your Farcebook/Twatter/Google minus account, the more quickly a discrepancy will be spotted and accommodated in your new Sale Item persona.

Blimey. There's a monograph there. Even actively working to retain anonymity will work against us. I think a tiny bit of poo came out just then.

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WTF?

""Privacy may be an anomaly.""

Says man working for $Bn corporation keen on making it "an anomaly."

Old rule of Psych ops.

Once I have convinced you that resistance is futile and I will do whatever I want with you I have already won.

Don't believe the BS.

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Re: ""Privacy may be an anomaly.""

"Once I have convinced you that resistance is futile and I will do whatever I want with you I have already won.

Don't believe the BS."

You assume it's BS. Thing is, for the most part, it's not. We've really become the Global VILLAGE (And I mean that in the sense of a small, tightly-knit community that can easily tell who's doing what. IOW, Villages have no expectation of privacy).

If convincing you that resistance is futile is a winning condition, then actually achieving the state that what you want is inevitable must be a condition of never losing. You're holding the royal flush, the ace of trumps. Until the game changes, no one's going to knock you off the top.

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Flame

Re: ""Privacy may be an anomaly.""

"You assume it's BS. Thing is, for the most part, it's not. We've really become the Global VILLAGE (And I mean that in the sense of a small, tightly-knit community that can easily tell who's doing what. IOW, Villages have no expectation of privacy)."

Funny yous should say that.

I think it's also like a village. Actually I think it's like The village, as in The Prisoner.

Complete with the pandemic data surveillance.

Nobody asked to have their privacy taken from them.

It was merely taken.

So if they did not ask to take our privacy, why should we ask to take it back.

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Privacy is not an anomaly, anonymity is

People used to mostly have privacy, unless somebody cared enough to pay a man to follow them around. Remember when divorce cases involved private detectives taking pictures of the unfaithful fooling around? It seems old hat now that we have Internet (though I'm sure it still exists). But apart from that, people used to have privacy.

However, anonymity has barely ever existed, outside from anonymous letters to newspapers and graffiti. The anonymity that people take now for granted on the web, and which they are outraged about when they lose it, has existed for max 20 years. How the world changes…

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Re: Privacy is not an anomaly, anonymity is

Truth be be told, privacy probably always went along with anonymity. Based on what I know of small towns in the US, everyone knows everyone else's business there, and some of what is known may even be true. Many of those who wanted privacy ended up moving to big cities where one could be anonymous by walking three or four blocks. And judging from Stendahl (http://www.gutenberg.org/files/798/798-h/798-h.htm#CHAPITRE_PREMIER-2) that isn't just in America.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Privacy is not an anomaly, anonymity is

In a village, then a neighbor knew, what color of bathing suite the girl next door was wearing when on a beach holiday with his friends.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Privacy is not an anomaly, anonymity is

Yes, because it turns out a friend of hers who's also a friend of yours ALSO went to the beach that day. He/she sees the distinctive color of the girl's swimsuit and, upon coming back, chats it up with you.

That's what happens in a village. People notice things and word of mouth passes things from one person to the next. And since it's small enough that everyone knows enough of everyone else, everyone is connected; eventually, the collective village knowledge becomes pretty comprehensive.

This village image always gets me thinking to the early parts of Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter", how Hester was busted for adultery because the community knew her husband had not yet crossed the Atlantic, preventing her from concealing it.

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Anonymous Coward

In other words

"People are stupid".

But, said tactfully.

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Turn the debil off ...

... adblocker with the google exceptions added to the filters, apply disconnnect.me

https://disconnect.me/

use false names for facebook. Screw them one and all.

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Silver badge

Re: Turn the debil off ...

Until you get tagged by an IP match, a "cookie" matcher (or other thing that can track stuff you can't erase), some other clever bugger that figures out your fake IP or login is connected to your REAL one.

To maintain a fake identity on the Internet for any length of time pretty much requires using a completely different computer on a different IP address. And even then, an uber-clever matching program may start making inferences based on one's grammar style or other kinds of long-standing habits that are hard to think about, let alone break.

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Pirate

Re: Turn the debil off ...

You can't beat them.

But that's no reason to make it easy for them.

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Re: The Fix

We've ALREADY had a number of high-profile dumps. Celebrities either live with the risks or eschew the Internet, and frankly those ARE your two options.

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Hate to say this

But the more I read of Vint Cerf, the more I think he's turned into an old grandfather figure whose key line is: "I remember when"...and then insert something "tcp packets needed a good breakfast before they made their way across the internet", and so forth.

He fails to understand that we are in year 20 of the networking revolution, and not even year 10 of the social networking revolution (within the networking revolution). These are still fast moving days, we're still working out the laws to control these things, we're still working out how this affects us and society as a whole.

It's the start of a very very long chain of events in human history. Yet he and others seem totally oblivious to that fact. The last 5 years is and will be, merely a tiny fragment of history when historians look back in 200/2000/20,000/200,000 years.

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Re: Hate to say this

Which means we're in the delicate part of the revolution: the part where we start learning of the unintended consequences. Think the big push for insecticides...until we learned the side effects of stuff like DDT...

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I suspect

That this will for the most part resolve itself

Currently if a young'un does something stupid, which then gets posted to FaceBork etc al then the biggest risk is a future employer harrumphing about bad behaviour of the young'un in question. Not that the old fogey did do that shit themselves, Just that FaceBork etc didn't exist in the stone ages

As the working population ages more and more managers will themselves been featured in the various social media websites doing stupid shit; Attitudes towards youthful indiscretions will I suspect ease.

Perhaps in the future a sparkly clean social profile will looked upon with suspicion

Then again, perhaps not; people in general are somewhat stupid

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EMails are anomalies

EMails, net browsing, searching are anomalies as well then. Our old villages didn't have these.

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Re: EMails are anomalies

Post and bulletin boards, shopping trips, and newspapers (with their classified advertisements) served a similar function for centuries. And all could be observed to enough of an extent that things could be gleaned from your habits.

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Re: EMails are anomalies

Erm, but not from the other side of the world, without even leaving your chair.

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The other side of the world, in those days, was the next village over the hill. And all it took was someone from there to come over on Market Day and take a peek at the board.

I'm sure some of them did it.

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If not, there were always the bards and troubadours, who made it a living to pass on the "news" (read: gossip) they learned along the way.

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This one's a red herring.

The problem isn't sharing a few crappy self-shots and status updates on Facebook, the problem is certain companies & governments collecting (& sharing!) as much data about everyone all the time.

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Anonymous Coward

Do not buy stuff from adverts

Companies only track you because they hope to be able to predict what you are going to buy. So, see an advert, do not buy the stuff being advertised. At some point those smart algorithms are going to figure that one out.

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Re: Do not buy stuff from adverts

They're not that dense. And the advertisers' job is to, to coin a phrase from an ad, "make the fish bite even when they're not hungry." They've made it their art form for over a century, and they're MASTERS of persistence. If they don't get you one way, they'll work another way until they get a hook (and they WILL get a hook eventually--it's what makes spam worthwhile after all). Sooner or later, they'll make a deal you just CAN'T resist because it hits something that makes you snap it up before it's gone (like a deal on something for the wife or kids just in time for Christmas). And that's all they need to get started.

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Re: Do not buy stuff from adverts

"So, see an advert, do not buy the stuff being advertised. At some point those smart algorithms are going to figure that one out."

They'll figure out that they need to advertise the competition's products to you ...

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