Friday, August 23, 2013

a panopticon with some shuttered windows

One of the many problems of the new reality of "ubiquitous" surveillance -- whether it be by the government, businesses, or just nosy people, is how much it leaves out. To the privacy-minded, this might sound like a strength, but in a world where people are judged by the results of such surveillance, it's a glaring weakness.

A recent NPR story discusses the amount of personal information that can be gleaned just by looking at the overall patterns of an email account, even without looking at the content of the emails. Actually, all email can expose is the person's email life. For those who use different emails -- some unconnected to a real name -- for different groups of friends, family, businesses, etc., the method is likely to leave significant holes. Ditto for tracking by social media. For those old fashioned enough to do much of their communicating face to face, or (horrors!) by traditional mail, the hole is bigger still.