Thursday, April 14, 2011

Privacy vs security

K1’s grade had their first encounter with cyber-bullying which goes without saying that all the kids and some parents (including me) are in a tizzy about it. The incident happened as a name-calling post via Google Buzz. Privacy advocates have won in the sense that the cyber bully was able to get away with it since Gmail is as anonymous as you can get (without a court order at any rate). Since all the kids have one other as their contacts on their Gmail accounts, a single person (already with an account) can create an anonymous e-mail and reach all the kids in one post via Buzz.

There is a sense that with advances in technology privacy advocates are fighting a losing battle - but as this case shows, this ain’t so. And the trade off that is depicted here is perhaps a false dichotomy between privacy and security, but what if everyone knew more about you. Would you feel safer? If e-mails could not be anonymous we would all worry less about cyber-bullies.

If my credit card company could somehow track my whereabouts and link the location with some physical characteristic about me then I would worry less about fraudulent charges. If I were home alone and had not moved in more than 10 hours someone could be sent to check up on me at whatever location I happened to be. Yes, there is good privacy and bad privacy but perhaps we need to give up on the idea that having privacy is always good.

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