in Business Identity Theft, Data breach, Identity Theft

The Privacy Contradiction

What an interesting time we are living in.  We are up in arms when our privacy has been exposed yet we continue to spew our daily lives and the lives of our children onto various social networking sites on a regular bases.  Talk about a contradiction!!  Don’t get me wrong – I am all in favor of privacy otherwise I would not be such a great privacy consultant.  I just don’t understand how people today are so eager to give up their privacy as long as they are the ones exposing it.

When the news broke about NSA and everyone but me seemed to be horrified, shocked and amazed that it was allowed to happen.  Invasions of privacy such as this happen on a daily basis in every state and every city.  Don’t believe me?  Recently I wrote about Target’s new marketing algorithm that monitors your purchases by your credit card number to determine if you are expecting.  Or how about the public wi-fi that recognizes your smartphone even if you do not log on?  Or how about the number of times per day your image is captured on security cameras?  Or even better, how about when you allow smartphone apps to use your location for “checking-in”?

Come on people – WAKE UP!!!!!  Do you really think it is necessary to tell people you are at Starbucks getting your morning Joe or better yet do you think anyone really cares?  Well maybe Starbucks and your stalker care.  And don’t get me started on the people that post online that they are going on vacation.  You might as well post a sign in your front yard stating “criminals, we are gone for the week so COME AND GET IT!!”  The worst part is that the majority of people do not understand what happens to their information.  Many think it is safe because their profile is “private.”  WRONG!!  Nothing on the Internet is private!!  You are willfully disclosing your information to an organization that stores the information on its servers to do with as they see fit.  Ever wonder why after you searched for something on Google you start seeing ads for the exact same thing in your email inbox?

Here is something else to consider.  Almost everything we do today is stored in the memory of a hard-drive, on a server or in the cloud.  In fact the Library of Congress has been archiving tweets since March 2006.  But that is not all they archive.  By April 2010 the Library of Congress had over 167 terabyes of  web-based information.  I can only imagine the amount of data they have on file today.

Let’s not forget to talk about the “cloud”.  The cloud is where you store your data, music, videos and images on a server that is owned by a company.  In other words, you are renting a storage unit from the local you-store-it center except this one is in cyberspace.  Sounds like a great idea.  You can access your data from any computer, smart phone, or tablet as long as you have Internet access.   Unfortunately the cloud, like most services offered in cyberspace are not 100% secure.  Don’t believe me – think about Dropbox or iCloud.  Both of these experienced data security breaches in the past year or two.   Another point to consider is, do you know where the cloud servers are located?  You might be surprised to learn that many of these companies resell space on servers in foreign locations (China, Russia, etc).  Once it is on their servers they can do with it as they see fit.  Yes there are privacy laws but the vary by country, industry and are only valid if they are enforced.

So to sum up my rant for today – privacy as we know is dead and often it is through our own actions.  Before you sign up for any online service (social network, data storage, apps, etc) read the privacy policy and the terms of service agreement.  Often these will spell out what the company can and cannot do with your information.  But this is not always a guarantee.  Another tip is to research the company and ask questions such as “where are your servers located?”  But the best tip of all is – if you are not willing to put it on a billboard on the highway, don’t put it on the Internet.  I’ll get off of my soapbox now.





  1. Carrie, wonderful article giving people insight into just how foolish they can be in regards to what they post on facebook, twitter, etc. I see people who post every aspect of their private life, break ups, make ups, going out and getting messed up and hungover the night before, and various profanity,you name it! Way to find employment, or anyone that will even consider you? That is the first place I look. At any rate, superb! So good to see you at the conference, stay in touch!


    Catherine Olen, LPI
    Kissimmee, FL
    FL PI License A2700353

  2. Carrie,

    Your missive entitled, “The Privacy Contradiction” could not have come at a better time for me. Later this month I will be presenting two talks on Identity Theft: One for individuals and one for businesses, the former sponsored by a financial investment company and the latter by The Hunterdon County (NJ) Chamber of Commerce. With your permission, I would like to use your article as a handout at these talks. Since I couldn’t have said it better, I will credit you for the information. After all, you are my Identity Theft mentor.


    Dave Watts,
    Captiva, FL & Califon, NJ
    FL Lic. No. A89-00394
    NJ Lic. No. 8537

  3. Dave, you are too kind!!! Congratulations on the upcoming speaking engagements. I would be honored to have you use my article as a handout. If you need a PDF let me know. The Association of Certified Identity Theft Investigators is proud to have you as a member. Keep up the great work!!

  4. Catherine, you are so right. I always find it ironic that the same person complaining about not being able to find a job is also the same one with the unprofessional social media content. It just amazes me that people think what they post online is private. Oh well, it just makes our jobs easier!! It was great seeing you as well at the Florida Association of Private Investigators conference this past weekend.

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