Sunday, June 17, 2007

Internet Privacy Concerns - Individuals and Businesses

Have you worried about the information out on the Internet or just gone blithely about your way? I know of a case where a young women got harassed through Myspace. Not the kind of problem with the most clear cut solution.

The Washington Post article, Teen Tests Internet's Lewd Track Record, from May 29 shows the problems of information getting onto the Internet and how it reproduces itself.

Today's Sunday Herald has an article that echoes and amplifies the Washington Post article.

Citing a litany of cases where people have found themselves surprised by the implications of what seemed like a harmless web posting, leading academic Dr Yaman Akdeniz has called for a massive public education programme aimed at combating what is set to become a key social issue.

"It may seem like harmless fun, but the social networking revolution is already becoming a major issue in real life. People are losing their jobs, relationships and in some extreme cases even their lives as a direct result of exposing so much of themselves to the world.

"They are leaving themselves wide-open to commercial, personal and physical harm without any apparent understanding of the potential results," said Akdeniz, founder of the watchdog organisation Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties UK.

"People must learn that once information has been released in digital format, it is impossible to get it back. We are living steadily more transparent lives, and the consequences of that could prove to be extremely dangerous."

Increasingly, the 21st-century citizen is defined by data. The conglomeration of personal records, certificates, applications and financial transactions that form the flurry of information following everyone about like a small cloud is the basis on which commercial and administrative judgements are made.

We think the real problem is some stalker or identity thief, but that may not be so. Self destruction may be more of a danger:

In the US, companies are already springing up that promise to check out job applicants' digital reputations on other firms' behalf. In addition to combing blog space, YouTube and an array of online forums for evidence, they also promise to track down potential recruits' Amazon reading lists in an effort to unearth any unwelcome political views.

"Practically the first thing everybody does when meeting someone new is to Google them. It's a great way of picking up extra information on a contact, but people don't seem to realise this when they're logging on to services like MySpace and Facebook, so they put everything online from their job title to their favourite sexual position," said Peter Cunningham, Viadeo's UK head of operations.

"A well-managed NetRep can work in your favour but nobody in business wants to take unnecessary risks, so if there's anything questionable about you online it will almost certainly have an impact upon your career prospects.
Yes, that does sound a bit too much like 1984 and Big Brother, but one major difference lies between Orwell's nightmare and our world: we put this stuff out there to be found rather than Big Brother having to dig up the dirt.

What does this have to do with businesses? The Sunday Herald doe smake the securityh threat point.
The wealth of digital information growing on the back of the web 2.0 boom has given rise to a new form of crime known as social engineering, where hackers manipulate online relationships in order to get access to valuable data about themselves or their place of work.

"It's a type of attack that is becoming ever more sophisticated: the hacker can now gain substantial information on your employees remotely because more and more data is held in the public domain. Take, for example, social networking sites such as Linked In, Ecademy and Ryze or jobs websites which house curriculum vitaes.

"Both provide ample opportunity for the hacker to use our credentials to impersonate us or to launch an attack on our employers," says Ken Munro of SecureTest, the company responsible for vetting the security of installations such as GCHQ.

Substitute business for individual in the above articles and I think you will see other places where the Internet can affect businesses. Think about it.