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Data Miners Scraping Away Our Privacy

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the hopefully-they-get-trapped-in-a-chilean-digitial-mine dept.

Privacy 142

Presto Vivace writes "Twig, writing for Corrente, reports on data scrapers. They are not looking for passwords and such; scrapers are looking at blogs and forums searching for material relevant to their corporate clients. We are assured that the information is 'anonymized' to protect the identities of forum participants. However, a tool called PeekYou permits users to connect online names with real world identities. No worries, though — if you have a week to spare, you can opt-out of some of the larger data banks."

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142 comments

Shrug. (2, Interesting)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 3 years ago | (#33907656)

The biggest issue with information on the internet has always been how to separate the crap from the good stuff. The fact that they're gathering data is uninteresting: what I'd be interested in is their signal-to-noise ratio.

Signal to noise ratio?? (4, Interesting)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 3 years ago | (#33908794)

"Shrug?" You obviously haven't been burned. I was foolish enough to send emails to a mailing list for a chronic medical condition under my real name, and now if you search for it you get all those stupid sites with misspelled URLs that show the searchable full text. The list admin went bonkers hiring lawyers and everyone unsubscribed in a hurry. I guess people do visit those sites if they're looking at it from the perspective of a signal to noise ratio.

It's not privacy, it's obscurity (4, Insightful)

quietwalker (969769) | more than 3 years ago | (#33907684)

If it's posted in a public space - it's not private
If it's accessible via public records - it's not private
If it occurs in a public forum - it's not private
If, for legal reasons, it must be disclosed in public - it's not private ... and so on.

If someone were to compile that set of information in an easy-to-read for, complete with a table of contents and nice index, that is also not invasion of privacy.
Using a computer to do the heavy lifting and reducing the time required to match everything together is also not invasion of privacy.

Listen, if you're talking about the privacy of your public information, and you're threatened by search engines, you are relying on security through obscurity. At least the people here on slashdot should recognize the follow of that.

Re:It's not privacy, it's obscurity (4, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 3 years ago | (#33907730)

I think the real issue here is that we need to rethink our notions of "privacy." It used to be that having a normal social life meant that outside of your social circle, you had a measure of privacy -- someone would have to actually be part of your social circle to learn about you. That is no longer true, but we still have not quite caught up with that new reality.

Re:It's not privacy, it's obscurity (5, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#33907938)

Or perhaps we need to rethink the ways that we regulate companies. There is an adjustment that needs to be made to our thinking, but that's mainly because of blackmail and possible random chance.

What you're suggesting is that just because corporations now have the affordable tools necessary to spy on us constantly that we should deal with it and they should be allowed to do it. Which is complete bullshit.

The real answer is requiring companies to ask permission and bar them from trying to compel people to give them the permission. It's one thing to require a drug test and background check for a job, but it's quite another to include in that background check data scraping off the net.

Re:It's not privacy, it's obscurity (2, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 3 years ago | (#33907976)

How exactly do we require those companies to get permission, especially when our own government has an interest in this sort of behavior, and to some degree, in having other companies do the dirty work for them?

The problem is that people have not yet awoken to the idea that old notions of privacy no longer apply. Until the majority of people realize that the game has changed, there will not be any meaningful regulation (why would anyone vote for it, if they do not perceive a problem that needs to be solved), nor will people switch to systems with stronger privacy guarantees.

Re:It's not privacy, it's obscurity (1, Interesting)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#33908240)

I don't know how to stop the government, other than by enforcing Amendment 10 (the US was never granted permission to spy, therefore it should not do it).

As for corporations, I'd like to see all their licenses revoked, and reverted to proprietorships where a sole person(s) is the owner and therefore directly accountable for his actions. I no longer believe in the concept of limited liability. The owners need to held to account for their actions, including jail time for invasion of privacy or abuse of customers/employees.

Re:It's not privacy, it's obscurity (2, Interesting)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 3 years ago | (#33908280)

I'm with you on disbanding corporations and restructuring the system, holding people accountable for their actions, except that the same argument applies: the general population needs to wake up before that can happen.

Re:It's not privacy, it's obscurity (4, Interesting)

schwit1 (797399) | more than 3 years ago | (#33909224)

'I don't know how to stop the government, other than by enforcing Amendment 10 (the US was never granted permission to spy, therefore it should not do it).'

The problem here is that other parts of the Constitution have been interpreted as trumping the 10th amendment. The commerce clause for example has not been interpreted as written or intended since FDR days. This alone has made the federal government all powerful.

Re:It's not privacy, it's obscurity (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#33909502)

Wait until there's a Libertarian or libertarian-leaning or Constitutionalist president (i.e. not the last two presidents).
Then shoot all 9 Justices. Or just the ones who believe the US has power to regulate INTRAstate commerce (it does not).
Replace.

Or a less violent solution: Amend the constitution to strike "regulate interstate commerce" from the Constitution.

"The question whether the judges are invested with exclusive authority to decide on the constitutionality of a law has been heretofore a subject of consideration with me in the exercise of official duties. Certainly there is not a word in the Constitution which has given that power to them more than to the Executive or Legislative branches." --Thomas Jefferson to W. H. Torrance, 1815. ME 14:303

"But the Chief Justice says, 'There must be an ultimate arbiter somewhere.' True, there must; but does that prove it is either party? The ultimate arbiter is the people of the Union, assembled by their deputies in convention, at the call of Congress or of two-thirds of the States. Let them decide to which they mean to give an authority claimed by two of their organs." --Thomas Jefferson to William Johnson, 1823. ME 15:451

"But, you may ask, if the two departments [i.e., federal and state] should claim each the same subject of power, where is the common umpire to decide ultimately between them? In cases of little importance or urgency, the prudence of both parties will keep them aloof from the questionable ground; but if it can neither be avoided nor compromised, a convention of the States must be called to ascribe the doubtful power to that department which they may think best." --Thomas Jefferson to John Cartwright, 1824. ME 16:47

Re:It's not privacy, it's obscurity (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#33909578)

>>>Amend the constitution to strike "regulate commerce among the several States" from the Constitution.

I've never understood how the courts could be confused by this line? It clearly says AMONG the states. What happens inside the states is none of the US government's business. If I want to grow corn and sell it to my neighbors, I can. The only government which can regulate me is the State, not the central fucks in DCs

Re:It's not privacy, it's obscurity (3, Insightful)

saider (177166) | more than 3 years ago | (#33908300)

The companies are already regulated. I regulate facebook by not using it. I don't twitter. The blogs I join that require an address have me listed as "Bill Clinton, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington DC 20050" I don't do these things because I don't want the world knowing my business (not that the world would care).

If you choose to give them all your info and tell them all about what you like and where you go, then that is your business. But at what point do you start wondering "How do they pay their staff and keep the servers on?".

If you don't want them to do something nefarious with your info, don't give it to them. There is no need for some government entity to impose rules to protect you.

Re:It's not privacy, it's obscurity (2, Interesting)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 3 years ago | (#33908880)

If you don't want them to do something nefarious with your info, don't give it to them. There is no need for some government entity to impose rules to protect you.

Where do you draw the line?

When facebook retro-actively changes what they promise to do and not do with the information people give them?
What about say, a store, quietly installing a system to read and record the license plate of every car that enters their parking lot?
Or when an entire industry becomes so used to routine privacy violations that even walk-in medical clinics refuse service to cash-only patients who won't disclose their name, address, etc?

Re:It's not privacy, it's obscurity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33909132)

Whenever I hear stuff like that I point out the fact that my cash says... "For all debts public and private." Then if that doesnt work I get loud, and they dont like that much, so they just do what I want.

Thinking about that I now realize thats how teabaggers feel.. get loud.

Re:It's not privacy, it's obscurity (1)

saider (177166) | more than 3 years ago | (#33909206)

When facebook retro-actively changes what they promise to do and not do with the information people give them?
The point isn't what a company promises to do, but rather what you give the company. Even if a company "promises" not to sell my data, I know that that promise isn't worth the paper it is printed on, so I provide as little information as possible, or bogus information, in order to get the service. Or I don't get the service. But I don't try to shift the responsibility of my privacy to someone else. I take responsibility for it myself.

What about say, a store, quietly installing a system to read and record the license plate of every car that enters their parking lot?
That is their parking lot and a public place, where I have no expectation of privacy. Why should they be banned from this behavior? Consider the flip side. Am I allowed to put up a camera on my property that photographs everyone that comes to my door?

Or when an entire industry becomes so used to routine privacy violations that even walk-in medical clinics refuse service to cash-only patients who won't disclose their name, address, etc?
Bogus name and address solves this problem. You're not doing this under oath, and as long as you are paying the entire bill before you leave, there is no fraud.

Re:It's not privacy, it's obscurity (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 3 years ago | (#33909398)

What about say, a store, quietly installing a system to read and record the license plate of every car that enters their parking lot?

That is their parking lot and a public place, where I have no expectation of privacy. Why should they be banned from this behavior? Consider the flip side. Am I allowed to put up a camera on my property that photographs everyone that comes to my door?

And when the practice gets to the point where it is impossible to even purchase basic necessities without having your presence logged, you are fine with that? When it ultimately becomes a choice between the life of a shut in and having your every movement beyond your own property permanently logged how can that make for a healthy society?

Bogus name and address solves this problem. You're not doing this under oath, and as long as you are paying the entire bill before you leave, there is no fraud.

I figured you would come down to that argument - that's why I threw it in there. I say it is entirely bogus that one needs to lie in order to transact basic commerce and that a society which accepts that suffering from a massive breakdown in trust, and without trust no one can do business, healthcare or otherwise.

Re:It's not privacy, it's obscurity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33908512)

The issue is not search public data, but consolidating public data and searching it.

I see how this is an issue, but I fail to see how consolidating public data is somehow "wrong".

As for "spying" on everyone. Well. It's impossible to spy on everyone. What you can do is accumulate a ton of public data and aggregate it. When you can make data points out of people. Using math, you can statistically figure out a lot of info about people. If you find a pattern for a data point that is different from the norm, you can "spy" on them.

New law passed, Aggregating public data is now illegal.. yay! Sounds more like someone whining.

Re:It's not privacy, it's obscurity (1)

quietwalker (969769) | more than 3 years ago | (#33908532)

"What you're suggesting is that just because corporations now have the affordable tools necessary to spy on us constantly that we should deal with it and they should be allowed to do it."

Except this is the exact opposite of spying. Spying is where one party goes through the trouble of finding out what another has kept hidden. In this case, it's one party simply compiling what another person has made public (even if doing so unknowingly). The problem is the people, and what they're making public, not the company - or individual - who is compiling it.

This might be an important point, to show you how unreasonable your idea is: You're claiming that it's a breach of privacy by a company, but a single individual could perform the same searches. If you were worried about that public privacy, you would necessarily need to apply these sorts of restrictions to individuals as well. Is it any different if a company takes a picture of the front of your house, than if someone stalking you does it? Or even just a random tourist walking by?

When you make statements like this: "The real answer is requiring companies to ask permission and bar them from trying to compel people to give them the permission," change your phrasing to 'individuals or companies'.

I know it's not what you said - that I'm changing your argument based on it's logical outcome and scope, but please consider what this would turn to.

It wouldn't stop at suing companies for making a hiring decision based on facebook photos of you in a drunken state. An individual could start suing individuals for breach of privacy because they decided not to date you based on something they found you wrote in your blog. Or for not voting for you because of what they read in the newspaper about your affair. Ever tried to get every person in a photo you took at the beach while on vacation to 'opt-in' to allow you to take it?

Eventually, you could sue someone for remembering what you said in a conversation loud enough to overhear.

It comes down to the fact that regardless of the legislation that's out there, it's impossible to put the cat back in the bag once it's out. Some folks rely on that fact when releasing information on the internet. If you want to have an expectation of what you consider private to STAY private, you must actually make sure to keep it private - and not release it to the public.

I can't see how this isn't just a commonsense view.

Re:It's not privacy, it's obscurity (2, Interesting)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 3 years ago | (#33909014)

In this case, it's one party simply compiling what another person has made public (even if doing so unknowingly). The problem is the people, and what they're making public, not the company - or individual - who is compiling it.

No, the problem is very much the people compiling and selling this information.

I am the author of my life; the information these leeches are compiling about me is a derivative work. Commercial use of such data (outside of fair use considerations) is a violation of my Subjectright [wearcam.org].

The fact that part of the performance of the artistic work that is my life takes place in public is irrelevant -- if I perform a song or poem in public, I do not thereby place it in the public domain.

Is it any different if a company takes a picture of the front of your house, than if someone stalking you does it? Or even just a random tourist walking by?

The appearance of the front of my house is a personal artistic expression. It should be understood to be covered by copyright. A random tourist taking a photo is fair use; someone taking a photo to use for commercial purposes, is not.

Re:It's not privacy, it's obscurity (2, Insightful)

rufty_tufty (888596) | more than 3 years ago | (#33908542)

Fast forward a few years and what happens when everyone with an internet connection has access to that data for free from Google Stalk or whatever it appears as on their labs page?
Information wants to be free works both ways...
Could make job interviews quite interesting when you've gStalked your interviewer, know what websites they all liked and all the past candidates and use this in your bargaining process.

Re:It's not privacy, it's obscurity (3, Insightful)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 3 years ago | (#33908784)

The real answer is requiring companies to ask permission and bar them from trying to compel people to give them the permission. It's one thing to require a drug test and background check for a job, but it's quite another to include in that background check data scraping off the net.

It's called the rigth to informational self-determinism [wikimedia.org]

And BTW, pre-employment drug tests are bullshit 999 out of a thousand - they are the result of the intersection between moralists and insurance liability since actual continued testing to maintain employment is illegal except in the most limited of safety-critical situations - might as well test for STDs for all the good it does.

Re:It's not privacy, it's obscurity (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33909150)

All of this is just a bandaid to the eventual and inevitable obscelesence of "name" identities. Pretty soon: the government is going to have to allow you to use crypto-signed aliases to identify yourself. By allowing you to challenge response hash a query: you can create disposable identities. Just like SSL certificates, except the social security administration will be the signing body.

Re:It's not privacy, it's obscurity (1)

Schadrach (1042952) | more than 3 years ago | (#33909698)

How would you prevent them from compelling people to give that permission? I mean, at the very least, they could simply bin any applications that don't give them permission -- if you want to even be considered, then give us permission to spy on you.

Re:It's not privacy, it's obscurity (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33908574)

Where's the DRM for individual identities? Data miners have proven that facts about individuals have value. Since privacy is gone for most people not living a life of seclusion, compensate them for it.

Re:It's not privacy, it's obscurity (1)

_Sprocket_ (42527) | more than 3 years ago | (#33908738)

I think the real issue here is that we need to rethink our notions of "privacy."

There's nothing wrong with our notions of privacy. What we need to adjust is our understanding of the motivations and mechanisms used to collect information about us. And, along those lines, how to better protect our privacy in this age.

Re:It's not privacy, it's obscurity (1)

bem (1977) | more than 3 years ago | (#33909264)

someone would have to actually be part of your social circle to learn about you. That is no longer true, but we still have not quite caught up with that new reality.

It's not new. Here in Oregon (and in most states) voter registration is public record. Got a name? They'll look it up for you on the phone for free. DMV records are public, too: it's a bit spendy to buy them one at a time but surprisingly cheap to buy them all in machine readable formats. (Wonder how that mechanic knows you have a Honda to send you the "We specialize in Honda repairs!" flier? They bought a list from the DMV of all registered Honda owners...)

The local county will gladly sell a list of all properties, their assessed and real values, owners, square footage, number of bedrooms/baths, year built, etc.

None of this is new: it goes back for decades -- it's just easier to sort through now.

Yes, it seems problematic for privacy: on the flip side, when CA changed it's laws after Rebecca Schaeffer was killed (a stalker found her home address through DMV records), a lawyer friend of mine complained about how hard it was to find people in CA to send notifications of recovered property. The DMV would no longer give out addresses, so they had to jump through hoops to demonstrate a compelling legal need for that information.

Voter registration is public because of a need to verify the validity of the election rolls: think you have fraudulent voters in your district, you're empowered to wade through the data and look. (And not to mention every party wants to be able to get the a list of the self-selected members... if you claim to be a Democrat, the Democrats want to add you to their literature and 'get out the vote' drives...)

Nothing new at all... only the correlation of data is new, and that's not all that new: there was a guy busted here 20 years ago because he combined the list of "cars owned by women" with voter registrations looking for single women to send mail to. He was only busted because he happened to also work for a politician and didn't pay for the lists.

Re:It's not privacy, it's obscurity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33909590)

Speaking of scraping,
I like to read about data miners who need to be scraped off of the pavement,

Public exposure (5, Insightful)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 3 years ago | (#33907914)

If I flash my privates in house but have the curtains open and so anyone from the street can see, I cannot complain about people looking and might indeed be arrested myself.

If I do the same in a house seperated from the road by a high fence and you put a ladder on the street and use nightvision goggles to look at my dangler, YOU are going to be arrested.

What is privacy? Is it the absolute letter of the law OR does EXPECTATION of privacy come into play?

You can follow me night and day. BUT that is very expensive and so you don't. So my actions in public are private simply because logging them would be far to costly. So I have come to expect that my actions in public are not constantly logged. Should this now change just because it has become possible to log them all? Should it be legal to record my every movement just because total CCTV surveilance has become feasable?

I do NOT know the answer to this question. On the one hand, I think that if you misbehave in public you should not have the right to complain "but I didn't expect anyone to catch me, so I should be free" BUT I also think that private companies being able to trace everyone constantly would be a REALLY bad idea.

If I ask on a forum about a health issue, should my insurance company be able to use this? I think not. Sure, if I am breaking the law, making false claims. But to deny people access because they think they might have a probem? No, that is going way to far.

Privacy is about more then things being recorded, it is about the idea that NOT everyone should constantly want to check up on everyone else. Just because I wrote a poem to a girl does NOT mean it has to be recorded by every private company in the world and be sold to the highest bidder.

Re:Public exposure (4, Interesting)

crf00 (1048098) | more than 3 years ago | (#33908836)

You missed something else: you get privacy protection in public places through publicy. Although everyone can see what you are doing, you are also protected because you can see what everyone else is doing. In physical public space, it is very hard for casual stalker to stalk anyone exactly because the stalker himself don't have privacy in public space. If someone stalks you, he can be spotted easily by you or people around you and get his reputation ruined.

CCTV invades people's privacy by introducing asymmetry in publicy: Anyone including the CCTV can see you, but you can't see the person watching you behind the CCTV. This can actually be solved by increasing the public visibility of the watchers, for the watchers to be watched. If the security room itself has CCTV so that everyone else can see what the watchers are doing, we'll get back the publicy symmetry and get protected.

The same can be said to public photography including smart phone cameras and street view. Traditionally, camera was large so the photographer had increased public visibility when taking photograph. Smart phones break the publicy symmetry by making it not obvious that someone is taking a photograph. To protect our privacy on being photographed, we need to increase the publicy of the photographer to make his action of taking photograph obvious. This is why making rules like the Camera Phone Predator Attack Alert Act is better than making laws that prohibit people to take photograph in public. Though, I'll not comment on whether we really need a law to enforce this, but having a rule at least allows ethical photographers to play nice with public photography.

Google street view is just a form of intensive photography, but we can't really define how much photos taken are considered too much and thus illegal. But what we can do is to increase the publicy of the street view vehicle, so that people can notice the vehicle more easily and avoid being photographed. For example, the street view vehicle can be painted bright color, install flashing light bar, or even make noise and warning before photographing, depending on how much we're willing to trade off between visibility and annoyance. But what about those stuff that you can't move such as buildings? Well, the same as basic photography, if you refuse to move away things that you don't want to be photographed even after the photographer give full notice in public space, then the photographer has full right and to take the photograph ethically without your consent.

You said that looking into your house from places higher than your fence is illegal, what about if I view it through a nearby multi-story apartment? If I stay at the fourth floor of the apartment and I look at your two-story house through my window, does it consider illegal? How about the children who look into your house when they are in school bus going home? You made the assumption that the world is full of low density residence where there is no higher ground or public places that are higher than one story, but that is really the minority rather than norm. If seeing your house through fence is considered privacy invasive, then today we won't have skycrappers and multistory apartment that allow us to look through any window over the next block.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pSqyEXLkrZ0 [youtube.com]

Re:Public exposure (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#33908844)

If I ask on a forum about a health issue, should my insurance company be able to use this? I think not. Sure, if I am breaking the law, making false claims. But to deny people access because they think they might have a probem? No, that is going way to far.

Insurance is a scam, and it will be such until the insurance companies are forced to reveal their formulae.

Re:Public exposure (1)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 3 years ago | (#33909098)

If I flash my privates in house but have the curtains open and so anyone from the street can see, I cannot complain about people looking and might indeed be arrested myself.

And yet if a woman forgets to close her curtains and a guy watches her change, she's not the one getting arrested.

"Reasonable expectation of privacy" has come to mean "whatever is most convenient for cops". It's convenient for cops to just have a looksie in your windows. It's convenient for cops to go through your purse. Fuck rule of law, it's all about letting the cops do what they want, because laws against peeping in windows apparently does not give you an expectation that cops can't peep in windows.

Re:It's not privacy, it's obscurity (2, Insightful)

thejdog (1921406) | more than 3 years ago | (#33908186)

Would you consider it reasonable if someone waited outside your house, and followed you every single day - all the places you go to, who you meet, etc? After all, you're using public highways and passing through public spaces. What if people employed a network of people to collate this information on you to make it easier? After all, where you go isn't necessarily private in itself, but would you be OK with people literally following every step you take and documenting it all? Does substituting technology "to do the heavy lifting and reducing the time required" make it acceptable? After all, if you aren't happy with someone else knowing your every move, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place apparently...

Re:It's not privacy, it's obscurity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33909460)

My theory is... if someone wants to arrange this, that's their perogative and it's legal. No different than the paparazzi following celebs around. Unless they start doing illegal things to follow you (say, driving dangerously to follow your car), then they're in the wrong.

It's illegal to videotape someone in the crapper though... just saying. If I want privacy, I'll go somewhere private.

Re:It's not privacy, it's obscurity (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33908484)

My only issue is that it is far too easy to masquerade as someone else and post false information about them, sign them up for NAMBLA or some hate group. If this data is to be used in ways that impact a person's life then it needs to be verified which would require the cooperation of ISPs at a minimum. Until such a time that the information can be verified it needs to be treated by all parties as gossip.

Re:It's not privacy, it's obscurity (1)

lseltzer (311306) | more than 3 years ago | (#33908628)

I've had the same thought about public security cameras. If you're out in public you can't have any reasonable expectation of privacy.

Re:It's not privacy, it's obscurity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33908638)

I think what's more disturbing than "data scrapers" are companies like Choicepoint that correlate this sort of data with credit card transactions, real-estate info, rental apps, and consumer credit and can package a shockingly detailed "profile" of any American citizen for a dollar figure. Choicepoint claims they "anonymize" their data for sale, but have been busted by the press on many occasions either failing to do so, or doing so in a way that didn't actually conceal their identity.

That information should not be publicly accessible by third parties, and more disturbing than the existence of "scrapers" to sell public information for $2/hit is the use of the same technology to correlate what should be very confidential information and resell it to third parties as complete profiles with SSNs, Account #s, medical histories... THAT is a problem.

"Opt out" (4, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 3 years ago | (#33907688)

It is a bit unnerving to think of "opting out" of something that I never consented to in any form. I am going to guess that most people are not even aware of these companies.

Yes, I know, "Don't post data about yourself online!" That is not really the answer when most people think that Facebook is the way to be social. I do not have a Facebook profile, and I stay off of other social networking websites too; I am not going to pretend for a moment, though, that I am even close to representative of the norm. It is easy to make fun of all those "fools" out there who are undermining their own privacy, but in the end, that is not going to solve the problem, and eventually even people who want to have privacy will find that it is not possible to do so.

Re:"Opt out" (4, Insightful)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#33907948)

YES I personally hate opt out schemes, I dont mind that my public data is public, but I hate being signed up for all sorts of BS and then being told its my responsibility to go to a billion different "services" to tell them no

Re:"Opt out" (1)

_Sprocket_ (42527) | more than 3 years ago | (#33908896)

YES I personally hate opt out schemes, I dont mind that my public data is public, but I hate being signed up for all sorts of BS and then being told its my responsibility to go to a billion different "services" to tell them no

That falls in line with email addresses. I believe an email address to be one of the most public pieces of information related to me. But I don't want to be in a situation where I have to opt-out of every spam list in the word... and the 20 that just popped in to existence during the time I was clicking the opt-out button on the last one.

Data miners can't to this unilaterally (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33907726)

It takes your help. It is not like they are sneaking into my house and going through my underwear.

In the one case they mention the guy feels "violated" because he linked from a pseudonymous depression message board to his blog where he used his real name.

Bloggers publicly blogging on the public internet have no expectation of privacy.

Re:Data miners can't to this unilaterally (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33907802)

It takes your help. It is not like they are sneaking into my house and going through my underwear.

Not sure you should be making those kind of assumptions.

looks like the same crap as Pipl (2, Insightful)

alen (225700) | more than 3 years ago | (#33907738)

nothing more than what anyone can find about someone else online. one time a contractor ripped off my inlaws for $15000 and it took my wife and I 3-4 hours to find his home, phone number, the fact that everything was in his wife's name, etc. cost $40 or so.

Opt-IN should ALWAYS be the default (3, Insightful)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 3 years ago | (#33907746)

For our privacy rights as individuals, it should ALWAYS be opt-IN for this, not opt-OUT!

Re:Opt-IN should ALWAYS be the default (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33907904)

The Direct Marketing Association in the U.S. has a lot more money than you do. They won't permit opt-in.

Re:Opt-IN should ALWAYS be the default (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 3 years ago | (#33908406)

I agree. Just a reminder to say that robots.txt is a form of opt-out.

Re:Opt-IN should ALWAYS be the default (2, Informative)

panda (10044) | more than 3 years ago | (#33909320)

Except that robots.txt is not enforceable in any way. Spiders can ignore your robots.txt, and I've even seen some that actually spider what's in robots.txt looking for the "juicy" stuff.

One solution that an associate came up with was to put a url in the robots.txt that could not be reached from the normal site. The URL, when accessed, would run a program that instantly blocked the client IP address in the server's firewall. After implementing this, he very quickly accumulated thousands of entries in the firewall table.

Re:Opt-IN should ALWAYS be the default (1)

gutnor (872759) | more than 3 years ago | (#33908438)

Making everything OPT-In is not very realistic. Nobody would every risk to create a service like Google Street Map which is in a grey area.

What would be better is that all companies scrapping data from public places should register in a single central location where a User can see the information collected about him - for free - and then check/authorize what can be done with that info.

Hope you don't have a common name (3, Interesting)

Megaweapon (25185) | more than 3 years ago | (#33907756)

If "Bob Smith" is a registered sex offender in a large urban area, another Bob Smith in the same area might have some difficulty getting hired for a job. Perhaps the scrapers might see some revenue in selling "whitelist" services.

Re:Hope you don't have a common name (2, Insightful)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 3 years ago | (#33908004)

If "Bob Smith" is a registered sex offender in a large urban area, another Bob Smith in the same area might have some difficulty getting hired for a job. Perhaps the scrapers might see some revenue in selling "whitelist" services.

Don't even go there. How long before someone has the bright idea of creating suspect names just to be able to charge for an opt out.

Re:Hope you don't have a common name (3, Insightful)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 3 years ago | (#33908012)

If "Bob Smith" is a registered sex offender in a large urban area, another Bob Smith in the same area might have some difficulty getting hired for a job. Perhaps the scrapers might see some revenue in selling "whitelist" services.

You have that backwards. Hope you don't have an uncommon name. Almost no one has a unique name, but people tend to think any uncommon name is unique. Even worse, locally uncommon names that are common elsewhere.

Happened to a friend of mine (2, Insightful)

tygerstripes (832644) | more than 3 years ago | (#33908290)

He has a middle-of-the-road name - not exactly common, but not wildly inventive.

Just so happens that a man convicted of indecent assault against a minor has the same name and comes from the same county.

The worst thing to happen (so far) was that my friend's FB account was deleted, and he had to create a new one and fire a "WTF?" email at FB. It was all rather amusing and it didn't cause any lasting damage, but I haven't had the heart to take him to one side and say, "Dude, seriously, you were *lucky* that's all that happened..."

People are dumb, and computers are dumb, yet the two sets seem to trust each other far more than is warranted. *That's* where the problem lies.

PeekYou fail (1)

hairymnstr (975960) | more than 3 years ago | (#33907790)

I'm quite careful about what I post online and actually have had positive comments in interviews about what people have found having googled my name. I tried putting my screen name (which I believe is unique) into PeekYou and it entirely failed to find my real-name, google searching names is much better to be honest.

Re:PeekYou fail (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 3 years ago | (#33907810)

I think the bigger fail is the amount of Javascript PeekYou makes use of -- including from Facebook and Google. I wonder if just searching for your name on PeekYou could potentially add more data to those companies' databases...

Re:PeekYou fail (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#33907982)

That was my thought, what kind of an idiot would type their own name into that. A handle sure, but actual name? On the plus side if you choose a common first initial, common last name it's almost impossible for them to figure out who you really are. And muddies things up for people that are legitimately using. And when the name is used, just throw on a few random digits and you're set.

Re:PeekYou fail (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33908130)

Funny, I just got ready to type in my name, finished the first name, and then thought, "Hey... wait a second..." and then closed the window.

Re:PeekYou fail (4, Funny)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 3 years ago | (#33908238)

Funny, I just got ready to type in my name, finished the first name, and then thought, "Hey... wait a second..." and then closed the window.

Don't worry. I typed in your name [peekyou.com] and came up with a number of hits,

Re:Need FreeIdentityReport.com ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33908764)

Just like the Credit Rating Bureau's you should be able to go to any of these companies and at least once a year be able to get a report of all the data they have on you for free! I know that for the limited data they do provide for free they have some of it wrong, and I'd like to be able to at least correct it so my virtual identity is correct !

ALL IS LOST ALL IS LOST (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33909512)

Holy shit! *cuts internet cable*

I'm going to live in the woods. Err, shit....I'm going to go love in the desert! Yeah, I live in the desert, data aggregators!

Re:PeekYou fail (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 3 years ago | (#33908034)

I tried putting my screen name (which I believe is unique) into PeekYou and it entirely failed to find my real-name

But unless you took precautions, now PeekYou can tie your screen name to your IP.

Re:PeekYou fail (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 3 years ago | (#33908134)

Did you by chance happen to search your screen name, and then your real name in a successive search?

PeekYou seems to me to be a really good way to scrape connections that aren't already made...

Re:PeekYou fail (1)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 3 years ago | (#33908204)

I did do that so I guess I'll check back again in two days via Tor on a completely separate browser and see if the information changed.

Re:PeekYou fail (1)

kalirion (728907) | more than 3 years ago | (#33908136)

286,068,716 People Associated with "kalirion" in USA

Hmm, didn't realize I was so popular....

What are the consequences to opting out? (3, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#33907814)

Banks, insurance companies, etc may end up using this kind of data to inform their risk management decisions. Eventually, that may mean that if they don't have this kind of data, you are risky by default. Look at what's happened with the credit bureaus. Technically they are opt out. But if you actually opt out, you put yourself at such a tremendous disadvantage that you can't really do it. You are forced to let these people have all sorts of detailed personal information, if you just want to live your life.

Perhaps we need some sort of data mining fifth amendment, where refusing to provide information cannot be used against you. But that's wishful thinking. In reality, people who just want to be left alone are probably going to be better off not opting out, as that would draw more attention than just blending into the crowd.

Re:What are the consequences to opting out? (1)

NJRoadfan (1254248) | more than 3 years ago | (#33909058)

The vast majority of this info is coming from the credit reporting agencies to begin with. Don't want to be in these databases? Don't get a credit history.. your entire life. Its not just the private sector thats selling you out, cash strapped governments do too (particularly motor vehicle departments).

if you want it to be private (2, Interesting)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 3 years ago | (#33907822)

go walk on a beach so the directional microphones can't pick up what you say through the surf noise

but if you want it to be public, post it on the internet

because as the other story from yesterday about the government spying on facebook shows: you are in the absurd scenario of trusting the GOVERNMENT to make rules, and you are trusting the GOVERNMENT to enforce rules, about what? about what you put in wide open view on a public internet. to me, that expectation of yours is insane

why are you trusting the government to do this? even if they had the intent and the enforcement capacity to do so, you honestly think they will do a capable job? with what? the corporate subcontractors with the financial involvement with the corporations who are after your data? pffft

and say the government fails to protect your data. ok, they sue and prosecute the offending corporations. but your info is already in the database. the database that is now mirrored 50 times by 25 different entities! once it gets on the internet, IT NEVER DIES. so please, get real: if you don't want it to get in a database, DON'T PUT IT ON THE FREAKING INTERNET

it is that simple. all other point of views are, frankly, a form of absurdity in which

1. you distrust corporations and governments with your private info,
2. so you put that private info on a public internet,
3. trusting corporations and governments to keep that info safe from
4. the same corporations and governments!

(smacks forehead)

i have a hen house. to protect that hen house from the wolf in the woods, i will hire the wolf in the woods to guard the hen house. wtf?!

Re:if you want it to be private (3, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 3 years ago | (#33907912)

if you don't want it to get in a database, DON'T PUT IT ON THE FREAKING INTERNET

If only it were that simple. How do you stop other people from posting it on some website somewhere, potentially without your knowledge? What about all those people who use Facebook and think that their privacy settings are equivalent to not posting information online, or that what the post on Facebook is only accessible to people they "friend?" Just saying, "Well you posted it online so it is your own fault," is not really an answer to the question.

(For the record, I do not use any social networking websites, I do not blog, and so forth. I still have to deal with everyone around me who does, though.)

if you are marking it private on facebook (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 3 years ago | (#33908008)

you are trusting facebook to actually keep it private

in what world do you live in which you have determined that facebook is worthy of that trust?

Re:if you are marking it private on facebook (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 3 years ago | (#33908110)

Read my post again, sir. I do not use Facebook or any similar website. There are plenty of people who do, though, and the overwhelming majority of them are not very knowledgeable about how the web or the Internet work, nor do they have a good enough grasp of what Facebook's privacy settings really mean.

Seriously, try talking to some humanities majors and you'll see what I mean (yes, this is a broad generalization; I am sure that there are humanities majors out there who are well informed when it comes to technology. I am making a generalization about people who are not well informed, and while it is stereotypical, humanities majors are probably a good group to start looking for such people). These are certainly college educated people, and they are generally intelligent enough to understand technology when it is explained to them, but they are not very informed on these issues. The idea that Facebook could be recording everything they do is novel to them. The idea that the privacy settings are nothing more than an entry in a database, which can easily be ignored by Facebook, is novel to them -- a lot of people never really give much thought to how privacy settings work, they just know that when they click a radio button, certain information becomes inaccessible to certain people.

I know this is hard to believe, but the number of people who actually understand what it means to "trust Facebook to keep their information private" is a small fraction of the number of people who use the Internet.

i wasn't attacking you (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 3 years ago | (#33908200)

i read your post in its entirety. i was attacking the idea that trust is even possible in the situation. and now i see we are actually in agreement, because you also think such trust is nonexistent. your point simply seems to be a lot of fools meanwhile still trust where there is none. therefore, we have no disagreement, because that is my point too. cheers

Re:if you want it to be private (4, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#33908000)

It's not that simple. The problem is that I can control what I put on the internet, but I have no control over what others put on the net. I learned that the hard way when TD Ameritrade lost my contact information to spammers.

you make a good point (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 3 years ago | (#33908066)

and since these entities simply cannot be trusted with keeping info safe, i think we are rapidly entering an age in which privacy simply doesn't exist

not out of any malevolence or malfeasance, but as a simple direct logical corollary to the growth of the internet and the unintended consequences of how things actually play out in the real world, regardless of anyone's intent

anything that gets in contact with the internet: it never dies

Re:if you want it to be private (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33908382)

don't ask why but i'm reminded of the following:

during WW1 (or WW2 i forget) it was noticed that nearly any man could be trained to accurately shoot a rifle. yet when it came to battle people would miss. the boiled it down to about 90% of people just being innately and subconsciously built NOT to kill people. of the 10% that coule it roughly came down to half having no social awareness/connection what so ever and the other half being so socially aware/connected that they couldn't let their friends die ergo the had to kill...

to bring that back to you, yes, there are wolves, but i know which i would want on myside.

Re:if you want it to be private (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33908566)

The problem is that I am not the one putting some of this stuff on the Internet. If you search my name you can get my address because it is part of the "public records" because I own a house, pay taxes. Others may also tag you in photographs, etc.

I have no idea why housing records is public information

Re:if you want it to be private (1)

Technician (215283) | more than 3 years ago | (#33909720)

go walk on a beach so the directional microphones can't pick up what you say through the surf noise

Surf noise does not defeat high gain directional microphones. What is worse for these is a good unsteady breeze. From the time the sound us uttered to the time it is picked up, the mass of air containing the sound has moved shifting the apparent arrival direction. With a shifting breeze, this makes tracking a sound source very difficult.

Ask any film maker that has had to record in a breeze. A still sound stage is much easier to record with surf sound added later.

Data Miners... (0, Offtopic)

vlueboy (1799360) | more than 3 years ago | (#33907850)

Are these the 33 gold miners Chile saved from doom 2 days ago? Wow. Skills transfer in awesome ways these days.

A fact of life now (1)

bm_luethke (253362) | more than 3 years ago | (#33907878)

We have no privacy on the internet - it is something no matter how much we want it to be otherwise, how much it ought to be that way, you can just forget it. Someone can reply to me all they want and nothing will change this. We do understand this principle in some ways - look at the recording industry and music sharing. We tell them that their old model of thinking is outdated because of the way the internet operates. That they just need to learn to live with it as there is nothing one can do about it - the only recourse is through legislation and that will not work in the long run. We tell them no matter how much they want otherwise it just isn't the Way Things Work - same here.

Ultimately this type of privacy no longer exists - they aren't intruding into something you have protected (which is another matter - that is still viable for many things), they are mining things you said in public. If you say it in public then it isn't "privacy" - the only thing different now is that the information is persistent and index-able.

Such is life on the internet - you choice is amongst four different things: Accept it and act accordingly, rail against it and be run over, pretend it doesn't happen and get run over, or never use the internet. You have no other choices.

I'm glad (2)

Conspiracy_Of_Doves (236787) | more than 3 years ago | (#33907944)

I saw no connection between my real identity and any of my online identities.

In fact, it barely had any information on my online identies, anyway. The only information it had on my real identity was stuff I already knew was out there, mainly job related stuff like LinkedIn.

Re:I'm glad (1)

kent_eh (543303) | more than 3 years ago | (#33908918)

Indeed. I just googled my name (real name) and the real me only shows up once in the first 3 pages of results, among at least a dozen other people who share my name.

The username I use here (and in variant spellings in many other places) didn't appear associated with my real name anywhere.

My wife is even more invisible. Searching her real name did not reveal her at all. Only a bunch of other people with the same name.

It looks like being a bit judicious about what we put out there is still working.

You know its hell being called Anonymous Coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33907984)

You know its hell being called Anonymous Coward. People keep accusing me of posting all sorts of things on line. Its almost as bad as the trouble my Brother In Law Allan Specimen has buying things with a credit card.

foolish slashdot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33908096)

again slashdot falling for providing free PR to some bullshit idea.

this thing does not really work as considerable context is required to correctly associate a username with its user.

likewise and as pointed above for real name.

automating a simple scrape search of 'social' network is silly.

Scraping away our privacy? (1)

PenisLands (930247) | more than 3 years ago | (#33908132)

Surely you mean mining away our privacy? Hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah, just like mining in Chile, or playing minecraft.

because opting out works (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33908214)

Just like the do not call registry.....all it really does is confirm for the companies that you really are you. That they've successfully connected those dots.

a bit like copying music (2, Interesting)

cindyann (1916572) | more than 3 years ago | (#33908338)

Copying music wasn't much of an issue until it became not only trivial to do but also trivial to share.

Once upon a time a third party would have had real work to do to find out how much I pay in property taxes, for example.

Yeah, it's public information, but it wasn't trivial to get.

I want accessibility of information about me to help me and make my life easier.

I don't want easy access to _my_ information to make it easy for other people to make my life more difficult.

Dont opt out (5, Insightful)

digitallife (805599) | more than 3 years ago | (#33908356)

I have no doubt that 'opting out' causes the problem to get dramatically worse, as the companies use the additional details (you have to fax your drivers licens to the first one on the list) to increase the value of your portfolio and sell it off to a bunch of other databases while they are 'removing' you from their own. They probably don't even bother removing you from theirs, because honestly what consequences are they going to suffer?

I think someone misunderstands data scraping (2, Insightful)

Delusion_ (56114) | more than 3 years ago | (#33908368)

"They are not looking for passwords and such; scrapers are looking at blogs and forums searching for material relevant to their corporate clients."

Web scraping for passwords? Why would anyone have thought this in the first place? It's a bad comparison. If your passwords are already on a website to be scraped, your problem isn't data scrapers.

I have no doubt... (2, Informative)

sudden.zero (981475) | more than 3 years ago | (#33908450)

that this is a real problem as I have personally experienced problems with data scrapers, scraping my data. However, this tool they are talking about (PeekYou) couldn't find a stripe in a pack of fruit stripe gum. I looked up several of my handles and several of my friends handles and was not able to find anyone. Then I looked up real names and was still unsuccessful. So, don't worry about (PeekYou) worry about people doing actual data-scraping the old fashioned way.

Next thing you know... (0, Redundant)

themoneyish (971138) | more than 3 years ago | (#33908478)

... we'll be rescuing them from an underground data mine after they've been stuck there for 69 days.

Post some chaff (2, Insightful)

bennetts2 (3638) | more than 3 years ago | (#33908502)

Surely the way round this is for those that feel strongly about thier privacy to post meaningless drivel that has no relationship to themselves or anyone else at regular intervals. The datascrapers will be unable to tell the difference between truth and reality and their business model will fail.
There's a use for Twitter after all!

pollute the data stream (4, Insightful)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 3 years ago | (#33908600)

There's only two ways to fight this - one is to push for data privacy laws, and the other is to pollute the data stream. When you're asked for a name, address, phone number or birthdate on a web site or form, lie. Just flat out lie. If you live on a town that borders another state (I'm originally from Kansas City, MO), say on forms you live on the other side of the border. Mixing states REALLY confuses data aggregators. The more information you get into the data stream that is fucked up, the harder it is to put it back together in an accurate way.

Make throwaway email addresses at gmail or wherever on a regular basis to use for all this, btw. And keep using DIFFERENT fake data, too, otherwise it will still be a consistent identity of sorts, and will probably eventually be tracked back to you. And don't ever put any real data in Facebook, etc., or put a link between your Facebook account and anything else. Social networking sites are by far the biggest leakers of personal data.

I have a mailbox at a local UPS store where I have everything sent.

Re:pollute the data stream (2, Interesting)

Krau Ming (1620473) | more than 3 years ago | (#33908904)

i recently had the opportunity to fill out a 100 page consumer trends survey for a reward of $30. there was something like 1000 questions all on a scale of 1 (i don't use these products) to 10 (i always use these products), and they ask for your personal description and address presumably to help the product companies determine how to improve/personalize their advertisement barrage or improve availability of their products. i ended up circling random numbers the entire survey, made up a random description of myself and provided a phony address and got it done in under an hour (probably would have taken more than a day if taken seriously). i felt very good about providing useless crap data to my corporate overlords and taking $30 from them.

No-Brainer Solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33908740)

If anyone has the least bit of concern regarding this issue, then please use a pseudonym when you post to conceal your identity.

Using a simple pseudonym is a tried-and-true method to prevent any comments, monologues, rants, or theses from being linked to ones true identity.

How Peek really works (1)

abigsmurf (919188) | more than 3 years ago | (#33909092)

*types in his user name*
"What that's not me!"
"... I wonder if it recognises my real name"
*types in real name*
*system now has the information it needs to link the user name to real name*

Re:How Peek really works (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 3 years ago | (#33909558)

User name> PPH {ENTER}
Unkown User id
User name> George Clooney {ENTER}
Welcome George

Problem solved.

They can't know if you don't tell them (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33909240)

Looked myself up. It says I'm 40 years old! Because when someone insists on my birthday for no good reason, I use the birthday of Unix - or more precisely the birthday of the Unix clock.

Here is your report... (1)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | more than 3 years ago | (#33909626)

After spending millions on data miners, surveys, demographic analysis, consumer panels, and consultants we've come to the conclusion that the target market for beer is young men.

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