Online Privacy and our digital crisis

Before 9-11 most people didn’t think of terrorism.
Before Facebook most people didn’t think about online privacy.

In some situations crisis is the factor that forces us to accept a reality that we do not want to consider.

In other situations it takes a massive and overwhelming transition to occur before we begin to consider reality.

The reality of today: it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that we share a lot of information about ourselves going through our daily lives.

We are all concerned about online privacy, but not enough to do much about it, apparently. ~Mathew Ingram, Editor (Fortune/CNN)

Just think about these two common situations that apply to a majority of the adult business population:

Cellular phone user: a cell phone is constantly sending and receiving data. Depending on the number of service towers nearby, you are continually being located by your phone. In addition to this data, your phone company has access to every call you’ve made, when you made it, where you made it, and to who you made it to. They can also determine who your friends are by what numbers you always answer, along with social network information (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin,etc) data that you’ve allowed them to access.

Wifi Laptop User: most computers have a unique identifier when it attempts to access WIFI. In addition to this unique identifier, a number of laptops also grant access to sensitive information on the hard drive, along with data about your browsing habits, bookmarks, and passwords. When using public non-secure WIFI hotspots (coffee shops, public malls, work offices), the exchange of data exposes access to more valuable information (banking accounts, credit cards, e-mail services, corporate databases.) Visit to get more information.

If we take the above two situations and combine them with dozens of other daily habits, it is fairly easy to see that most of us are taking a lot of risks on a daily basis.

Yet most of us have no idea what those risks really entail.

Why do I compare Terrorism and Online Privacy?

The devil is in the data!

A recent report by YouGov / Opera software revealed a very interesting fact: that the average web user worries about online privacy nearly twice as much as they do terrorist attack.


The key reason for this is fairly basic: almost all of us personally know someone who has been the victim of an online privacy issue. Our personal and professional networks have been subjected to an increasing number of unethical, immoral, and illegal online concerns that include:

  • identity theft
  • credit fraud
  • banking fraud
  • online bullying
  • employment termination
  • corporate espionage
  • personal/business brand theft
  • online libel / slander

With the number of online privacy issues increasing, our understanding as digital consumers is completely lacking. There are few (if any) organizations that have successfully managed to educate the general consumer audience to understand the ramifications of what we doing online. Even though most of us know someone who has been a victim of online privacy, a majority of us will not correct our personal behaviors until we experience a ‘worse case scenario’ first-hand.

“It is interesting to note the gap between what people say concerns them online and what they do in practice to protect themselves,” said Christen Krogh, Chief Development Officer, Opera Software. “We often see that it is human nature to fear traffic accidents but not wear a seatbelt or helmet, or dread bankruptcy but continue spending, and it very much seems like it is the same for online behavior.”

On the corporate business end; information and technology professionals at major security corporations (Cisco, Sun Microsystems,Symantec, Norton, etc) are faced with a tidal wave of ‘user ignorance’ that is hammering away at every conceivable point of security failure. These organizations are constantly dealing with the common quote “the chain is only as strong as the weakest link.”

Big problems are highlighted at the macro level

The crimes and pitfalls surrounding online privacy issues are hard for many of us to perceive. For the most part the ramifications are not personally felt, but are instead communication as troublesome issues from someone in our network. This means that it is easy for us to pass our responsibility of the issue or simply claim “it will never happen to me.”

Yet as more and more unethical, immoral, and criminal acts takes place, the more likely that someone in our family network (the people we truly care about and take responsibility for) are affected by one of these conditions.

When we look at the same problems from a corporate level, simple math tells us that a percentage of all employees/vendors/clients will suffer from one of these problems and that the outcome will affect the integrity of our business. If we know that every 1 in 25 will be affected by online slander or libel or that 1 in 250 will require employment termination, any sizable organization will quickly see that there are multiple costs related to online privacy issues.

Do yourself (and your friends) a favor: get educated.

In addition to many related articles here on my blog (listed after the article) –  I’ve collected a few additional resources to help you gain a better perspective on how you can protect your personal and professional online privacy.

What other tips and resources help define and defend your online privacy?