Friday, May 21, 2010

Our lives in the cloud

We have all heard the flap over Facebook's sharing of private user data with advertisers.  And recently about Google collecting data on users.  Google.  You know, the "Don't be evil" guys.  Well, Facebook is a primary resource for lawyers to research their opposition, potential jurors, plaintiffs and defendants...

Recently, in a custody case, a father was testifying to obtain custody of his child and asserted that he had reformed and had not had a drink in over a year.  The lawyer for the wife presented a picture of him from his facebook page that showed him drinking a few months prior to the trial...

Many of us maintain email accounts on Gmail, Yahoo and Hotmail among others.  All web based services that maintain all of our data on their servers.  Additionally, services such as Google Apps or even the more recent Adobe online screenplay authoring tools and Photoshop online products place our information, preferences, location and proprietary works onto the servers of companies with whom most people just tend to place blind trust into.

The public posture of these companies regarding user privacy tends to be one that sounds like they are acting in good conscience.  But we as consumers of these services need to be diligent in our use of said services and to assume that these companies will not act appropriately with our privacy.

This is not to say that these service providers will act maliciously against us.  However, the assumption that their agenda is aligned with that of their consumers is naive at best and dangerous at worst.  It is incumbent upon the consumers of these services to protect ourselves.  The assumption that the service providers will do that for us is, again, naive.

So what do WE as consumers need to do?  It's very simple.  Two things:

  1. Place ONLY information into our online activities that does not compromise our personal privacy.  We must ALWAYS assume that there is no privacy on the internet.  Not in emai, not in online applications, social websites - NOTHING.
  2. When we see that privacy is being compromised by any service provider we MUST speak out about this.  However, our tone must be one that gives the benefit of the doubt to the service provider.  This method of raising concern is more likely to be taken seriously than a "Sky is falling, everyone is spying on me" approach.
That's it.  Simple.  Do not depend on any service provider to maintain your privacy.  They may have a policy that protects the user but there are always individuals at any of these companies that can compromise our privacy without the knowledge of that company.

What does this have to do with filmmaking?  Nothing, specifically, however I know that a lot of my readers are active on forums, run their own blogs, use cloud based applications and it is important for all of us to act responsibly in the information age.

Be careful out there.

UPDATE: I should also point out that deleting your content from an online service provider only ensures that it is out of the public eye.  Service providers do backups and maintain historical records that are obtainable via court order.  And, then there is always THIS.

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