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    Op-Ed at Irish Times: Privacy and the internet

    The Irish Times has an editorial about online privacy, noting the interest that online companies such as Google and Facebook have in obtaining and “monetizing” user data through behavioral targeted advertising or otherwise. (Security expert Bruce Schneier also has discussed this issue.) The Irish Times says:

    SHOULD PEOPLE be allowed to change their names to disassociate themselves from embarrassing youthful follies or damaging indiscretions recorded on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter? Eric Schmidt, chief executive of internet search engine Google, believes they should. He bases his argument on the modern reality that details of the private lives and personal views of young people are now so easily accessible online. Certainly, there is cause for concern, especially for job-seekers. A recent Microsoft survey of employers found that two-thirds had rejected applicants on the basis of personal information obtained from internet searches. […]

    Individuals have an interest in protecting their online privacy while the business model of many internet companies is quite the opposite: it is based on exploiting that personal information for commercial gain. Individuals have little knowledge or control over how these companies use, collect, process and store such information.

    Given the stark conflict in these two positions, it is hardly surprising that internet companies have done so little to ease concerns by accepting the public has a right to see information held about them, to be told how it is used, with whom it is shared and how securely it is protected.

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