« Money well spent? | Main | Now, that makes sense »

Privacy Insanity

I spent part of this afternoon debating privacy issues with a colleague of mine. He contended that online and offline privacy is something that needed to be protected at all cost and companies should not collect data in any way. Not that they shouldn't collect personally identifiable data. They should collect nothing. And what data they have should be kept secured and not shared at all.

My thought is that this is the biggest load of crap that I have ever heard of. First and foremost, not collecting data would be impossible. In this day and age, we leave a trail of data everywhere we go. This data comes primarily in the form of purchases that we make. But it can also come from anywhere. Surveys you fill out. Websites you visit. Government information. Books you check out from the library.

Newsflash... We are in the information age. People are always collecting data. The cable company is monitoring the show I am watching right now. My Internet service provider monitors the outbound traffic on my router. You are reading my website and I have already collected the IP address you are coming from, the operating system on your computer and the browser that you are viewing my site with. I can then cross reference that with other data and find out how often you have viewed the site, the domain name of your ISP and which pages you have read.

Like I said... Information is everywhere. And we can't do anything about it. In about 5 minutes of searching, here is what I found on the Internet about me:

Google returned 184 hits for my name. Most of them were books that I wrote. It did return two websites that I am running. A quick search on FasterWhoIs for one of those domains reveals my home address and my cell phone number. Once you have that, there is all kinds of information that can be gleaned from there... I was able to find my property tax bill online as well as aerial photos of my house. There are also a couple of websites that will even tell you my social security number, how much money I make and the number of children and pets I have in my house.

If this type of information can be used to send me marketing information that I might find useful... Great! If it means that companies I do business with will give me lower prices or start carrying products that I will use, even better. If it means that my elected officials will start representing my thoughts as a constituent, then I think that collecting this information is well served.

Get over the privacy debate. In this day and age, true privacy is a misnomer... It doesn't exist. Data will continue to be collected and stored. If you can find a way to live life without leaving data behind, then more power to you. Until then, you will keep leaving a trail of data everywhere you go.