All about privacy


Way back in 2009… yes 3 years back I had written two posts – “Privacy would be a new luxury” and “the window needs to be shut”. Probably way ahead of the times I was. I was reminded of these posts when I read the Brunch yesterday (its a supplement with The Hindustan Times every Sunday). It was all about privacy fears, about data mining and building a complete profile of a person by the way he or she uses the web or anything that helps her stay connected. For those who want to know what I am talking about, grab a copy of Brunch or read my posts… The threat is real and it is happening. It may not happen to you because you think you take all the precautions but some day it will…

 

Privacy would soon be a new luxury

Posted: August 7, 2009 in Advertising & MarketingSocial Media
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Luxury products are usually very expensive and affordable by a very few… the reason they are luxury and command a premium.

The way the world is going… soon there will be a new product which is going to be the ultimate luxury. And it is called privacy.

In the age of information explosion (and we ourselves add so much to that), nothing is hidden from anyone who wants to know more about us. If anything, we encourage information to be available about every waking (or sleeping) moment about us.

Facebook, Twitter, Orkut, MySpace, blogs, slideshare…. the list goes on… We are on display… or let me rephrase… we have put ourselves on display. Of course, most of it has been need driven… part of the social need set. But as we are slowly finding out… what goes on the web.. never really disappears. It would probably be there forever… in some form or the other… All the privacy issues that Facebook faced a while back… the furore was not so much about profiles not being deleted… it was about the future… and I will come to that later… The point is that we have taken this social interaction to a level where nothing.. well almost nothing is private… if it is not visible on the homepage or profile, it is visible in a text box of a mobile phone… in chat or e-mail… Nothing is hidden…

While this is what we do… there are organizations that are profiling us… banks, hospitality, mobile service providers, insurance… you name any organization… and they have a profile on their customers. In some cases we feel proud that they have a profile while in other cases it is an irritant…

And I also know that most recruitment consultants, the moment they get a resume, they get on the LinkedIn and all networking sites to check out the candidate! scary huh? people better watch it what they put up on ‘social’ networking sites and how much time they spend over there…

And trust me… while Google Voice is sounding so exciting right now… can you imagine the wealth of information that Google would get about your communication habits?

In one of my earlier posts – “Life in the Blue Nowhere” I had touched upon the fact that the more we are wired, the less is likely to be the privacy we would have… and it is true…

Now this is the case for a common man… celebrities too indulge in giving out very private information about themselves – case in point a little snippet I read about Angelina Jolie badgering Brad Pitt about the burial plot… Geez! And then the celebrities have issues with papparazzi chasing them! If you hang yourself out to dry… how can you complain about people knowing everything about you….

Slowly but surely… we are going to reach a stage when there will be a slew of products which would promise to protect your privacy… And these wont be just of the firewall type… they would be lot more complicated (and expensive) provide ways to erase a whole lot of stuff (stuff which sounded great when it was being posted or put up) from the web. Isolation is going to be packaged and sold (and there would be people who would buy!) and would be sold at exhorbitant prices… We would be craving for isolation… we would be ready to pay top dollar for it…

Letting go of all the gadgets and equipment is going to be tough (there would probably be de-addiction centers for that… for mobile phones there already are…) but we are going to surely try…

We try even now… couple of days away from it all… I know of a friend who had put up a message on facebook that he would not be responding to anything for a week and the comments he got… made for some interesting reading…

I bet there are organizations already working on such products… if anything they are right now feeding this whole “connect” frenzy so that when the time is ripe… there ‘isolation’ product would generate the kind of demand that would surpass the mania that was witnessed for iPhone…

The window needs to be shut

Posted: November 7, 2009 in Social Media
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 It has been a while that I have posted anything. Work pressures and many other pressures. Been meaning to write this one for quite sometime now.

Read this book called “The Broken Window” by an author who is soon turning into one of my favorites – Mr Jeffrey Deavers.

At one level it is a gripping read and at another level, it is an indictment of the new culture that web access has spawned in terms of virtual lives taking over from real lives and more importantly, every little piece of information gets stored deep down in some server and then is mined to build a profile on the individual.

Any organization can build extensive profiles  and can have access to the most intimate details basis the purchase that a person makes using a debit/credit card or shopping online or essentially any activity that involves a transaction which is connected and if you read the book, it will send a chill up your spine. You can read more about the book at:

http://www.jefferydeaver.com/Novels_/Broken/broken.html

But the reason for this post… almost like a continuation of earlier posts about “Life in Blue Nowhere” and how “Privacy would be a new luxury”… we are reaching a point where everything that we do and a whole lot of that is online can be captured and used to build our profile. And that profile can be used by corporates to target their offerings. It can be used strategically to modify our behaviour. And it can be used for some really dangerous stuff as mentioned in the book.

I have really started wondering if  “going off the grid”  is a concept whose time has come. The way things are, using a debit card or a credit card may not be very prudent. Can you imagine, you buy a whole lot of stuff and pay through cards (wonder how many have noticed that at the cash counter, while the card gets swiped for transaction, it also gets swiped into the outlet database), the cross tabs of what you have bought can be very informative to a data miner.

Staying endlessly on facebook, twittering and everything else to be socially active on the web would soon lead to people knowing everything about you. Read another book by Mr Deavers and it uses what we say on social networking sites and as comments on various blogs to create a scenario where nothing is private. A person with a little elevated skills of data mining can unearth so many  things that it is scary… your fears, your passions, your insecurities… it is all there for everyone to see.

Rambling of course,  but I do believe that sanity is required in terms of how we use our conveniences and more important, there needs to be a control on how data mining is used. Till that happens, I am going to figure out ways of slowly dropping off the grid.

Win two tickets to Formula 1 Airtel Grandprix of India*


So let me also join the brandwagon and offer tickets to F1. It would need you to read all the posts on my blog (proof would be comment on each post). Then write a catch slogan about how good reading my blog was and then buy subscription to my blog and win tickets to F1. Of course needless to say… *T&C apply. Will pen them down when I can figure what they are.

Seriously, every one wants to offer tickets to F1. It is like people are gonna fall over themselves to be there and will buy, write and take part in everything. From five star hotels to pubs.. from durable to service operators, they would want you believe that if you not at F1, you are a loser.

Now I am also a big fan of F1… but am I gonna spend money to see the cars wizz past so fast that you don’t even know whose car was it? Nah… I would rather watch the race at Monte Carlo (which will be lot more exciting and fun)… instead of the nightmare it would be watching it in India.. the dust, the grime, the wannabe crowds, the noise, the heat… wow.. so much of the negatives… for an event which is actually made for TV (to be watched on TV)

So guess what I am gonna do.. will get a couple of beers.. will sprawl on my bean bag (I do it for every race) and watch it in the cool comfort of my living room… while people who go there would be more busy tweeting and updating their Facebook status and generally missing out on all the action and curse inwardly for all the tardy facilities that would be available at the venue. I believe beer will be served too over there. So get ready to read about all the beer brawls in the next day’s newspapers. Everyone knows how thirsty we Indians are for liquor at sports events and how we cant hold our liquor and the false sense of bravado it brings about….

Convergence and Privacy(or isolation)


Two technology trends in three days are indicative of how technology is going to polarize how we are going to communicate or wish to communicate in the future. And a pat on my back for having predicted the trends a year and half back.

First of course is the big news about facebook and their intention to monopolize the mind of their users. If everything can be done through facebook… why login to any other website to email or connect. And not just connect on email but infiltrate every mode of communication. The facebook generation which spends endless hours over there… all the more reason to shift their entire life to facebook! Imagine the eyeballs and the money that can be made through advertising on facebook. But…

Am just wondering is it really such a good idea. To play a devil’s advocate… hack into a person’s account and you know every single detail about the person and everyone else who forms the eco system of that person. I think facebook is creating a monster which has the potential to invade a person’s privacy like no other. In my past posts on social media, I had commented how there is a darker side of internet which can take over a person’s life and identity theft would probably take an all new meaning. It is time Mr Jeffery Deavers penned another book. All the information about the person in one place so no need to even troll the net to get more. facebook has made things so easy for people with devious intent! I know one person for sure who is not going to put all his eggs in one basket for sure and that’s ME!

The other piece of news is tucked in the top right corner of page 21 of The Times of India today. Called John’s phone – its a mobile phone launched in UK which only makes calls… Thats it!… only calls and nothing else… not even a sms (now that I find a bit of extreme) but even more extreme is that the phone doesn’t even have a phone book (it’s  got a note-book and a pen tucked behind the phone). But importantly, this is part of the trend I had predicted in one of my post last years “Privacy would soon be a new luxury”. This phone would increasingly appeal to people who want to ‘unconnect’. The pressure of staying connected will soon start taking its toll.

Just like with the environment… after having abused it for ages, we are now talking green and eco friendly. A hundred years back or maybe 150 years back… we were green and ecofriendly and then under the garb of development and progression we created products that made our lives oh so easy to live and took the toll on the environment… Now that we are done screwing it, we want to bring the green back and make this planet habitable for the future generations.

Same way… we went ahead and embraced technology and used every possible mean of connecting and putting our lives on display but like the environment.. there is a price to pay and sooner than later we are going to realize it. Technology is a fad and has always been one… It is always the next big thing that seduces us and takes over our mind and our lives. I have been guilty of buying into it too…

But this launch of the phone priced at US$ 50 I think is indicative of a trend that is going to catch on. Not because it is cheap but for the ‘features it does not offer’… And the first ones to buy this phone are the people who would indulge in reverse snobbery… the same people who had made snobbery an art by buying the best in technology are the ones who would buy the most basic in technology… And while Sarthak on Hit 95FM said that this would be the phone for technologically challenged, I think this phone would be the one for people who have been there and done that and want to forget it all…

Wonder if the brands are going to catch on to these trends and perpetuate them or continue to exist in here and now because it is all about the bottom line in this financial year…

100


yes this is the post number 100!! I guess it is a huge achievement for me. In the past too I had started blogs but never went beyond couple of posts so reaching the three digits is a big surprise. To a regular blogger perhaps it is not big deal. Seth Godin writes one everyday… sometimes two posts in a day!

I think the trick to writing is to write something everyday… anything… as long as there are a few lines posted… which a lot of us are actually not able to do… including me. I mean I started a year and half back and ideally there should have been over 500 posts on my blog but here I am getting cheap thrills on my 100.

I think these posts are like a legacy I would be leaving behind once I am a doddering old fool who can’t see the typed word on the screen or can’t type. Like I had mentioned in many of my posts on social media, these posts would stay on the web forever and would continue to show views of a common man on everything that happens around him.

Now I am not very sure if my posts make a lot of sense to many who actually read them (they make sense to me). There have been close to 2000 views of my blog but only 100 comments. This could be indicative of two things:

1. People do not think my posts are worth commenting so they read and move on.. or

2. In a typical behavior that is demonstrated online, we are logged in for ourselves and think it is a waste of time to comment on a blogger’s post. After all the post is not a facebook status comment or even a peep into the private life of a person so why waste time commenting. On few occasions I had actually mentioned on facebook that comments if any, should be on the blog and not on facebook… never worked lol

And as one of the related articles says – a blog without comments is still a blog…

But what the hell! all those who read the posts… A BIG THANK YOU! and to people who took the time to comment… it has been pleasure to read your comments and there have been occasions that I have not responded to the comments because I could not think of a cool enough or intellectual enough response to the comment

My next big target is 500. And it shall be achieved… if I am still writing and if wordpress continues to be a popular blog site because in the virtual space nothing stays popular for long.