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    CNN Launches ‘End of Privacy’ Series

    CNN has launched an “End of Privacy” series. In the first article, “The internet and the ‘end of privacy,'” CNN says:

    As people share more information about themselves online, the internet, in effect, has created a public transcript of consciousness — storing our thoughts, locations, social lives and memories in data warehouses all over the world. This has enabled technological advances and shaped our social interactions. It’s also really freaked some people out.

    With a dearth of established, effective methods to manage online privacy, and with digital marketers looking to profit from users’ online lives, some privacy advocates and everyday Web users worry people have lost control of their identities on the internet. […]

    Some privacy advocates say shared information may jeopardize personal safety. Earlier this year, a widely publicized site called PleaseRobMe.com collected status updates from Twitter and Foursquare that indicated a person was away from home. That info, in theory, could help burglars figure out the best time to break into a person’s house or apartment — when no one’s there. […]

    There are tools available to internet users who would like to protect some aspects of their online privacy. Users can opt out of tracking by certain marketers, clamp down access to their social networking sites and employ online pseudonyms as a way to keep some info relatively private. […]

    But these tools only go so far. Virtually any information posted online can become public in an instant. An info-thief easily could take a screen grab of a private Facebook message and post it on a public blog. Private Twitter feeds — viewable only by people who the author approves — can be “retweeted,” or re-posted, onto the public internet. And third-party Facebook apps have admitted to taking information from app users, against Facebook’s rules, and selling that data to advertisers.

    Here are some tips from CNN for protecting your privacy. In another article, “Who is really stealing your privacy?,” sociologist and professor of international relations at George Washington University Amitai Etzioni looks at corporate data collectors.

    These days, the main enemy of privacy is not Big Brother, but a whole bunch of Little Brothers: profit-making corporations.

    Two kinds of corporations keep track of what you buy, read, visit, drink; whom you call, e-mail, and date; and lots more. Some merely track your activity on their site as part of their regular business, to help them sell you stuff. This is true from Amazon to Zappos. Other corporations make shadowing you — and keeping very detailed dossiers on you — their main line of business. They sell this information to all comers. Just one such company, Choicepoint, has records on more than 220 million people.

    Most Americans probably know corporations are tracking them, but they may well be unaware of the latest ways corporations are carving up whatever remains of their privacy.

    Cell phone companies offer a service that allows lovers, ex-wives and ex-husbands, lawyers, or anyone else to find out where you are hanging out. We are accustomed to tracking tools like cookies, which are installed on your computer by websites you visit. Cookies are used to identify you and to remember your preferences. They make shopping easier, but they also give sites the power to spy on you. […]

    Beyond tracking and surveillance, select corporations keep dossiers on any crimes you have committed, any divorces, political leanings, the gender and age of any children in the household, as well as interests in topics including religion, the Bible, gambling and adult entertainment.

    Privacy advocates have sharply objected to proposals for the government to employ “deep packet inspection,” a powerful tool used to analyze the contents of data sent on the internet, to fight viruses and cybercrime. But now, private companies offer this service for a fee.

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