The day privacy died…

I read this article on ZDnet today and it sent chills down my spine.

It describes the ethically-challenged business practices of a company called RapLeaf and their techniques to acquire personal information about people based on what’s publicly available in social networking sites.

As I read it I had a sense of deja vu because I remember feeling the same way when I heard a presentation that Eben Moglen gave at the mySQL conference back in April. In it he talks about our need to be vigilant with our personal information because the looming threat from on line services to our privacy will only grow over time and we need better tools to control it.

The podcast is here. It’s definitely worth listening to.

At the end, he asks if this is our future:

I don’t have answers. I know that there is a question in here that collectively we need to think about. I recognize the simplicity of not thinking and just clicking, and I think we have to be aware that that simplicity is a trap. Not a trap put forward for us by The Evil. I concede that “Do No Evil” may be motto of those who present the option to us, and they may be right. They may not be doing evil.

It wasn’t evil to put carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It’s evil not to notice that it has consequences, and to consider them before we drown our kid’s back yard.

So let us think about this. Let us bring all of our good collective intellect to bear. Let us see how this can be dealt with. Let us imagine our ways out of the problem in several different direction. Let’s do what we usually do. Let’s have proof of concepts. Lets have running code. Let a hundred flowers bloom. Let’s sort it out.

So that when the kids go thought the snapshots and the scrapbooks after we are gone, they don’t find themselves saying. “This. This is the snapshot of the day when privacy died”.

And the bitterness of that is in the photograph they took of themselves as they did it.