Monday, July 18, 2005

Online private eyes draw privacy complaints

Online private eyes draw privacy complaints according to this C|Net story by Elinor Mills Monday. It appears that it is becoming as simple as entering your credit card into a web form to gather location information, financials, cell phone logs and other private information on almost anyone. Privacy advocates oppose the ease of access to this information by anyone at any time. The biggest and most obvious concern is that of criminals (or anyone with a grudge) being able to track down targets with ill intent.

Beyond the bad guy scenario, it becomes possible for parents to check up on children, spouses track movements of their significant others and neighbors to effectively spy on the guy across the street or up the hall. Besides being simply creepy, it seems wrong for private information to be sold to anyone who feels a couple of hundred dollars is justified to dredge up details on a potential date or annoying neighbor.

Privacy advocates are suggesting that the firms that sell this information should be required to vet their customers to be sure that they aren't seeking information for ill intent and that they be able to justify their need of the information they purchase anonymously online. Though credit card records exist on these information purchases, it is only partially trackable to the credit card owner and is subject to the belief that the card used is in fact legitimately owned by the purchaser. Beyond that, the person being tracked and traced is nearly always unaware that their personal and financial privacy is being violated.

Shouldn't the person being investigated be notified that they are being monitored and followed? Data is truly too easily gained and we must tighten up on the easy flow of information of a private nature. This applies to data brokers of every sort, including credit monitoring agencies, public records and business information - all will easily sell what they know without hesitation to criminals - a la ChoicePoint.

It's not so much about big brother here. More like thousands of creepy little brothers, and friends, and neighbors, and estranged significant others and slimy small time creeps. Makes me shiver.

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posted by RealitySEO at 9:36 AM


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