Online Privacy, An Oxymoron?

Saw an article by Tamara Dull, Director of Emerging Technology at SAS, that had me wondered about if it is futile to trying to protect my privacy online.  Yeah, you heard it right.  Online privacy is the subject de jure.

According to Ms Dull and I quote, “Did you know that most Americans (87%) can be uniquely identified from just three pieces of personal data: a birth date, five-digit zip code and gender?”  THREE pieces!  That is nothing.  With all the news on cyber attacks and identity thefts, the percentage is probably higher by now.

Of course the operative word there is “most.”  If it were “all,” I would just declare “Game Over” and throw my shredder out the window.  Why bother?  If I sounded a bit paranoid, please excuse me.  I am torn between the convenience of online versus the protection of my Personally Identifiable Information.

Take Google Gmail for instance.  When I book a flight reservation and the airline sends me a confirmation email, Google puts it on my calendar!  Now the confirmation email is to me, and it sits in my Gmail inbox.  How did it get on my Google Calendar?  I can only deduce that someone in Google must have “read” my email.

Now, I happen to like this Google feature.  It is convenient as I would have done the same: take the confirmation email from the airline and post it to my Google Calendar as reminders.  Now it is done automatically for me.

And I rationalize that Google is not reading my email.  They must have some algorithm that can vet email from airlines than say email from Joe Smith.   Well, guess again, I got an email from Joe Smith (not his real name) for a web-chat.  And guess what?  The web-chat shows up on my Google Calendar as well.

WTF!

I know Google has more than three pieces of personal data on me.  More like three thousand as I have been a Google Gmail user for years.  Google probably has more information on me than I have forgotten.  Am I being paranoid?  Should I give up trying to protect my identity? Or is resistance futile?

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2 Responses to Online Privacy, An Oxymoron?

  1. Tamara Dull says:

    Loved the post! Earlier this month, I attended the IAPP Global Privacy Summit in Washington, D.C. I can’t tell you how many times that stat was cited. It’s still going strong after almost 15 years.

    And I had to laugh when you talked about Gmail “reading” your email. In February, I was headed out on a trip, and one of my emails related to the trip suggested that I stay at a certain hotel. Google Calendar “saw” when I was traveling and scheduled me to check into this suggested hotel – complete with address and phone number. I didn’t notice the calendar event until Google Now on my Droid flashed me a reminder that it was time to check in. Thanks, Google. I think.

    Google knows way more about me than my brain can remember. It’s both creepy and cool.

    Like

    • terryshen says:

      It is cool because the technology is available at our finger tips. The creepy part will dissipate, I hope, as the technology gets more advanced and we get more comfortable with it. Until then, happy computing, Tamara.

      Terry

      Liked by 1 person

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