the obscurity obstacle, or the peculiar problem of privacy

No new news: the internet is big. So if you want to stalk someone online, it might not be the easiest gig. And a lot of people depend on this vastness for their privacy. A google of someone's name, first and last, is bound to get you millions of hits. Add in their school or employer, and you narrow it down to tens of thousands. It's only when you know their particular discipline, specialty, or some other odd keyword that will guarantee you the right results. And it's only like a 90% satisfaction guarantee because they might not have anything posted. Again, nothing earth shattering.

The interesting part is not the state of the internet, but what to do about one's own privacy. I'd categorize internet usage into three tiers of security: those who don't want themselves or their work to be found, those who want a fairly anonymous existence, and those that want people to know about them and their work. There are valid reasons for each approach.

Those who desire complete security could include people working on funded research, on a patent, or on something devious. They could just want their existence or work to be completely secure out of principle--it's a legitimate desire. Anybody who would fit into this category would find this discussion fairly inane.

Those that want the world to know everything about them and their doings most often includes businesses that depend on circulation and teenagers, or other lonely individuals. The more you put out there, the more is found, but even (or especially) in this category, discretion is essential.

But for the rest of us, I'd say simple security through obscurity is fine. Unsearchable obscurity is even more secure. Needing to know a url is analogous to needing to know a password. It all depends on your desire to be found. Regardless of whether or not you want something found, taking care in what you do or post is the best security.


KathE said...

Hrm... So I think it's fitting that this post is next. Basically, I can unfind your blog if you'd like. Just let me know! Privacy is a beautiful, beautiful thing, and I don't want to read things that weren't intended for an audience. I won't read further unless I get the ok, and SERIOUSLY don't feel bad if you'd rather have your blog private!


ajb said...

Hehe. I don't mind. I just like people to think about it and be aware of privacy issues. If I didn't want it found, I wouldn't have linked it to sccs. That said, I'm not going to post it to facebook or anything. :)