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Posts Tagged ‘privacy’

Taking the Internet Back for the People: The Government’s Plan for Internet Security

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

Not too long ago, the U.S. federal government finalized their National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC). Although acronyms tend to make everything sound overly-official, this isn’t some new set of laws. Instead, this ‘strategy’ is more of an attempt to improve internet safety. NSTIC aims to make the internet a better place for everyone to store and use their personal information. Sounds kind of impossible, right? If this was some sort of strictly government attempt, it probably would be. However, NSTIC asks for the participation of businesses and consumers alike, actually giving it a pretty good shot.

What’s the Strategy?

As explained in more detail here and here, NSTIC is focused on three main issues:

  • Identity – Anyone who uses the internet probably has a jumble of user names and passwords. Attempting to foster an “identity ecosystem,” NSTIC aims to simplify this issue by having users deal with only a select few identities from trustworthy sources.
  • Privacy – Whenever we sign up or buy something online, we give out tons of personal information. The plan regarding NSTIC is very much on a ‘need to know’ basis. Under this, only necessary personal information will be shared with the interacting group; no more, no less.
  • Security – If we have less accounts to create, then we can actually create them distinctively. After all, how many people use the same user names and passwords across multiple accounts? In short, a lot! This makes online theft too easy. Hopefully, this proposed ecosystem will eliminate that.

In the end, it’s best to look at NSTIC as more of a reform than another government headache. It aims to create a more tightly knit hold on the online sharing of personal information.

Who Ya Gonna Call?

Sorry to upset you, but no one in particular. As I said earlier, NSTIC isn’t a law; it’s a recommendation. It calls upon all of us to do our part in improving our security online. I’m sure we all love to complain about incidents such as Sony’s Playstation Network being hacked. However, are there any particular networks or sites where we are 100% safe of theft? Businesses need to keep client information private, but we can’t just use easily accessible usernames and passwords with the expectation that they will take care of the rest.

NSTIC wants to fix these problems by making the online process simpler, and it wants everyone’s participation. If you really want to be cheesy about it, NSTIC has a ‘think of the children’ kind of feel. The process isn’t going to happen overnight. It’s a grand scale issue that will probably take decades or even generations. And yet, even in spite of its inevitably gradual process, isn’t there no time like the present to get started?

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Posts Tagged ‘privacy’

Advertising Evolves to Become More Effective and Relevant Amidst Privacy Concerns

Monday, January 17th, 2011

If you own a house in the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area or any state where door-to-door soliciting is legal, there’s a good chance you’ve had your fair share of canvassers come knock on your door. If the canvasser introduced himself as Mike and tried to say something about a free estimate for windows before you told him to get lost, we’ve probably already met. Like myself years ago, most canvassers are teenagers in high-school, attracted by the commission-based pay and opportunity to work outside. A backlash against door-to-door marketing has grown as disenchanted workers and homeowners accused companies of exploiting unskilled youth labor and invading personal privacy. Minors are barred from canvassing and telemarketing in many states, according to the US Department of Labor

Since beginning college at American University, I’ve left the unfortunate trade of canvassing in favor of unpaid internships that do not induce ego rot caused by constant rejection by cold-call leads. The state of advertising has evolved since, becoming more personalized by utilizing the personal information that most Americans make available online. Cold call marketing, such as through telemarketing and canvassing, is being replaced by personalized ads on the internet. Business owners are no longer left to shoot in the dark. Facebook has pioneered this front by allowing businesses to create ads (using this simple form) that appear to users based on personal information posted in their profiles. Although I’ve discovered a few good bands through these ads, aimed specifically toward me because I like 50+ artists, most are no more relevant than anything I’d expect to hear from a telemarketer. Despite Facebook’s efforts to deliver relevant ads, promotions for Methadone treatment and Doom Metal bands still make their way to bewildered consumers.

Those who have seen Steven Speilberg’s film adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s Minority Report remember a scene where Tom Cruise is immediately identified by ubiquitous retina scanners when walking into a mall, and bombarded with personal advertisements. “Hey, Tom, you really look like you could use a Guinness.”

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With the consistently growing presence of advertisements in our culture, this dystopia may be an accurate prediction of the future for consumers. Is Facebook already crossing the line by utilizing users’ personal information to direct advertisements? Or is this a better alternative to being harassed by telemarketers and canvassers?

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