This morning, when I arrived at work, opened my browser, I noticed something very strange… my Google search bar filtered the letter ‘S’ and popped up four items that were “security” related as my suggested search. Not a big deal right? To me, it is a huge issue. I use a feature built into the browser that is supposed to wipe out all cache from my internet browser upon shutdown. Now, because I take my privacy seriously, it is time for a short rant on how we as humans are losing our rights to privacy, and how nobody really seems to care anymore.
Privacy 101: In our legal system there are four categories of privacy invasion:
- Intrusion of solitude: physical or electronic intrusion into one’s private quarters.
- Public disclosure of private facts: the dissemination of truthful private information which a reasonable person would find objectionable
- False light: the publication of facts which place a person in a false light, even though the facts themselves may not be defamatory.
- Appropriation: the unauthorized use of a person’s name or likeness to obtain some benefits.
How do these affect us on a daily basis? Well, intrusion of solitude happens every time we get on the internet from our home. This comes in the form of electronic tracking devices called internet cookies.
“Cookies cannot be programmed, cannot carry viruses, and cannot install malware on the host computer. However, they can be used by spyware to track user’s browsing activities—a major privacy concern that prompted European and US law makers to take action. Cookies can also be stolen by hackers to gain access to a victim’s web account.”
You see from this quote why I erase my data when I shut down my browser. One cookie in particular that I feel should be banned is the “tracking cookie” as it tells advertisers and whomever else programmed it, what internet pages I have visited. Folks, for your privacy, you have the option to disable cookies. Some websites require them as a way to ensure the session is correct, this is seen from financial institutions, shopping cart systems, etc… You can create exceptions for the sites you use regularly, but again, choose the setting that will delete all browsing cache when you exit the web browser.
How else is our privacy being stripped?
Have you noticed an increase of camera systems around your town? I know in Dallas, Texas, many new cameras have gone up at street lights. Now, I am not talking about speed cameras and/or red light cameras, I am talking about regular CCTV cameras. On one roadway in particular, Sam Rayburn Toll way, there is an area between the “Independence” and “Coit” exits where there are about 10 cameras facing in every possible direction (except up). What are these cameras being used for? Have the citizens been told they were under surveillance? I haven’t seen a sign stating they are using surveillance cameras, and by searching www.ntta.org for the words, “surveillance,” “camera,” and “video,” I receive no notification of the use of cameras on that road. Also, have you ever read the terms of service regarding your toll tag? Did you know that a court can request your toll tag hits, and NTTA will provide them? They can track you by your tag locations… Just food for thought!
How about the use of cameras in “Downtown” areas of the various cities around the DFW metropolis? The city of Dallas states that in 2007 the city received a grant to purchase and install cameras for surveillance in the Central Business District, but there is not mention of what the “central business district” encompasses, so, as any good writer does, I contact the city planner’s office, and asked them. They claimed that the “central business district is an undefined area that surrounds the west end, deep ellum, arts district, and the new construction areas on RL Thorton freeway. “ Wow, that is a big district, considering the northern district for Dallas patrol is comprised of a 2.5 square mile radius. Now, at least the city of Dallas notified their citizens (technically) that there was going to be surveillance equipment installed, whereas other cities, such as Plano and Frisco have not notified their citizens, yet have these cameras installed.
Folks, we are losing our right to privacy everyday when we don’t receive the right to vote for the “added security” measures. As a security expert, I am all for the equipment, as I do feel it leads to safer streets for the general public. As a person working on becoming a true privacy expert, I feel it is necessary to allow the citizens of a jurisdiction to choose to give up some of their privacy. Remember, privacy is your responsibility, and it is up to you to choose to give up your right to privacy in order to be more secure.
Protect your information, protect yourself; Coffee is brewing people, it is time to wake up!!!