Back in 1999, I read an interview with Scott McNealy of Sun Microsystems where he was quoted as saying, “You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it.”
The flap over iPhones and Androids tracking your movements only shows how far the horse is out of the barn.
Anyone who thinks they can keep from being tracked these days is just uninformed. The people who are arguing over that level of privacy have no shot of winning.
I have friends in Ireland. I was on Google Earth the other day, one of the world’s wondrous creations, walking the streets of a town in County Galway. It was heartening to note that the Irish government, like many in Europe, makes Google blank out faces and license plates on its Street View over there. Not here.
On the other hand, there is another argument that needs to be made, an argument that could be, I think, both effective and important. And that is: You Have to Let Us Know What You’re Doing With Our Information.
I got an email from Verizon yesterday. “Good News!” it chirped. The next sentence, to rub it in, read: ‘Below please find the description of changes to the Verizon Online Terms of Service (TOS) effective 4/19/11.’
Even the three people who believe they might someday get good news in an email from Verizon know it’s not coming in the changes to the Online Terms of Service, sorry.
So finally, eight paragraphs later, I find the other shoe I know must be lurking somewhere here: Verizon is giving itself the right to change the administrative password for your router ‘to safeguard Internet security’ (of course).
Nothing wrong with this in itself. If they’re just changing the cases where the customer has left the name ‘Admin’ and the password ‘12345’, good for them. On the other hand, I gave my router a new password and have my laptop set up to run off it whenever it’s in the house. If they decide to change that at some random moment without telling me, they can reap havoc.
And here’s where it gets sticky: ‘We will use reasonable means to notify Subscribers whose home router administrative passwords are changed, which may include email notice to your Primary Email Address and/or an announcement on the My Verizon portal.’
An announcement on the Verizon portal?! WTF? Excuse me, does anyone read the portal? That’s like the idiotic ad banks place in the paper telling you they just discovered that $57,000 savings Uncle Henry left you, along with 50,000 other cases just like it. Write them care of their accountants at the address in the tiny print at the bottom and, after 126 other steps, you might get some of it back.
No. That’s it. No more. All my information’s out there and no one’s doing anything to protect it or put it back in a safe place. It’s too late. Fine, I accept that. All I’m asking is, if you’re going to track my location, send me an email detailing what you intend to do with it and get my permission. And if you’re going to change the terms of my security systems—even if they’re also yours—let me know and get my permission.
Or—just to offer an alternative—open up the marketplace and give me five or six companies really competing for my business, offering me equal-quality products with different service levels or different degrees of customer service (which is to say, several levels better than Verizon’s) if I’m willing to pay for it.
That would be even better. But I’m not holding my breath.