Saturday, March 22, 2014

Is Big Brother watching you?

In a word, yes. He's been watching for a while, and as time goes on his ability peer ever more deeply into your everyday life becomes that much more frightening.

While the NSA scandal has been laying that bare for much of the past year, don't think for a second that governments and government-related agencies are the only protagonists in this complex tale.

Someone's always watching
Shanghai, China
May 2012
Thematic. Technological. Here.
This week, Microsoft raised all sorts of alarm bells when it was revealed it dug into the personal Hotmail account of a French blogger after it suspected one of its employees had stolen corporate secrets and emailed them to the blogger. The company claimed it had every right to do so., but the resulting online dustup has netted the company a fair amount of criticism for the move.

Aside from the fact that he used a Hotmail account - seriously? In this day and age? - the move by the software giant gives anyone with a web-based messaging account pause. You'd be be forgiven for wondering if your service provider could do the same thing to you, too.

In short, yes they can. It's all laid out quite nicely in the terms of use agreement you failed to read all those years ago because you were too busy at the time to take the time to pore through the admittedly indecipherable legalese. But Microsoft, Google, Facebook and virtually every other provider of messaging, social media and related online services all include very specific language that grants them carte blanche to read through anything you happen to write, share, send or receive. Here's a Google-related example that might creep you out a little.

To its credit, Microsoft announced changes to its privacy policy, and will seek guidance from outside counsel whenever something like this happens. But that big open door into your account remains, and you might want to keep that in mind the next time you decide to use your free webmail account to plot your next not-quite-legal activity. Maybe stick to whispered statements behind the water cooler instead.

Your turn: Do you worry about online privacy? How do you keep your discussions away from prying eyes?


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

We should ALL be worried about privacy, Carmi.

We're rushing headlong into a 1984-style world, and it doesn't seem to matter who you vote for.

It keeps getting worse, no matter who wins the elections.

kenju said...

I have no discussions that I need to keep secret from anyone - therefore - I am an open book. But if I had a secret, I hope I would be smart enough not to post it anywhere via computer.

There needs to be some sort of halt to the escalation of our lack of privacy, however.

Riot Kitty said...

It's creepy as fuck. This first comment is right on - we should all be worried. There is no privacy.