Its Too Late to Turn Back the Clock on Web Privacy

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2010-12-02 Print this article Print


5. Absolute privacy is officially dead 

Absolute privacy-total and utter anonymity-is dead. Even though some folks still use screen names and others don't share their real names when they comment on an article, every single thing that a person does on the Web in some way indicates who they are and what they're up to. There are certainly degrees of privacy, and some people are better at maintaining anonymity than others, but those who believe absolute privacy is alive and well on the Internet are kidding themselves. 

6. It's too difficult to go back 

The Internet is always moving forward and builds upon the services and the experiences that people had once before. Considering people are enjoying using tools and sites that are making them less private, few companies (if any) would want to turn back time. At this point, consumers are showing the world how they want to use the Web. And going forward, Website owners will only build upon that with each new improvement they make. There is simply no going back. 

7. The regulators care-to a point 

When Google revealed that it inadvertently collected payload data as its vehicles were taking images for StreetView, some international government regulators, including Canada and the U.K., launched in-depth investigations. After analyzing the data, they then called on Google to rectify the issue. However, just as quickly as they launched their respective investigations, they closed them. The same happened with several other privacy issues originating on other prominent Websites. Regulators certainly seem to care about privacy. But exactly how much they care is debatable. 

8. Three companies: Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare 

Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare are arguably the biggest reasons why Web users don't care about privacy as much as they once did. People all over the globe use the three prominent social networks to share almost every facet of their lives. And that trend doesn't seem to be slowing down. For its part, Facebook has established a privacy-settings pane where users can determine how much they want to share with others. But as any Facebook user knows, most folks choose to share more than privacy advocates would like to see. 

9. Major stakeholders are on different pages 

There are three main stakeholders when it comes to Web privacy-Internet users, government regulators and site owners. Although they all say they care quite a bit about Web privacy, they all seem to be on different pages. Sometimes, government regulators talk about bolstering Internet privacy. Other times, it's the user who's worried most about a privacy problem. Along the way, some site owners seem to be less apt to worry about privacy concerns until they're forced into it. It's an interesting dynamic. And it's contributing to the ongoing erosion of privacy on the Web. 

10. It has too much momentum 

The trend toward less privacy has an immense amount of momentum. As noted, users are sharing more than ever before. The sites they're sharing content on are heavily entrenched on the Web. At this point, it just doesn't seem that that momentum will be slowing. It's something that every Web user, regardless of their feelings on privacy, must accept. 

Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at

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