In The Digital Age, What Is Privacy?

October 11, 2013

A few days ago I wrote about LinkedIn and how apparently they know who I email. After that, I began thinking about how much you can learn about a person just by their digital footprint, especially from an intelligence perspective. What’s interesting is just how much data private corporations like Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft know about everyone. So, exactly what kind of things could you figure out just looking at a person’s digital footprint? Let’s think about it…

Your daily travel habits. You know that function “location services”? While it’s cool to show the world that you’re posting something from Thailand, Philadelphia, or China, reviewing your location services history also would allow someone to put together a very accurate profile of where you generally are. Your laptop, and ergo third parties like Apple, know where you are every single day. 

Your interests, including what type of music, hobbies and literature they are into. If you’re like me, maybe you buy a lot of books and music in digital format. It’s easier than carrying stuff around everywhere. However, if someone were putting together a dossier on you, they could compile all the music, books, and games you are into. While we used to listen to tapes CDs, now Spotify broadcasts whatever I listen to all over the internet. 

Your social network. Just by looking at my Facebook page, you can make some obvious connections about me. Grew up in Downingtown, went to Villanova University, and then Temple Law. Looking at my “friends” section, you can put together a very clear picture of the people I associate with and how frequently. In the olden days, the government would have to subpoena your telephone records or conduct surveillance to figure out who you associate with. Today it’s much easier to simply look at who emails are sent to, and who you’re friends with on Facebook. Keep in mind, part of intelligence is being able to see how people are connected. 

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A Brave New World In The Cloud

October 9, 2013

This morning I woke up and had a LinkedIn request. LinkedIn is stupid, but I have it for some reason. I’ve never figured out what to do with it, nor received any benefit from it, but that’s beside the point. After I accepted the request, it then suggested “people I may know.”

I start browsing through the list, and something startled me. It was suggesting current clients of mine, prospective clients, and opposing counsel. Many of whom I’ve never met in person, and have only emailed a few times. We’re not Facebook friends, we’re not on Google Circles, and we don’t follow each other on Twitter. No, these are people I have simply emailed privately back and forth with. Other than our private emails, there is no trace that I had ever encountered many of these suggested contacts. Several were not even in my geographic area, we had no shared connections, and my only connection to them is either being a client of mine or counsel in another case. Our only traceable connections were emails back and forth.

To put it mildly, the discovery was unsettling. How the hell does LinkedIn know who I’m emailing with? Isn’t that information private?

Then I got to thinking….

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