All Your Informations Are Belong To Us!
Bad news first. Any shred of privacy that might still be around won't be for long. Blog comments and other online communications are the latest target of data scrapers, says the Wall Street Journal. Scrapers aren't solitary hackers trying to steal passwords or your gf's cell phone number. Some of these enterprises are run by major corporations, including Nielsen and the Journal's parent company, Dow Jones.
Operating in a legal "gray area," scrapers are hired guns that infiltrate blogs, forums, etc., and then sift through comments, looking for information their clients can use.
The scraping services insist that the information is “anonymized” or “de-identified” to protect your identity (as well as litter the language with ridiculous new verbs). See, no worries! You've been de-identified, so this is not about you. It's just how Sanofi-aventis, Proctor and Gamble and Citibank stay competitive!!
Okay, big yawn ... We all know privacy is just a quaint concept that hasn't existed since girdles were in style. But the interesting thing is that somehow even prying into 99% of everybody's bidness isn't enough anymore. Thanks to the patent-pending technology being introduced by PeekYou, your online user name/names could be connected to your real name, real soon. Which means anyone -- including current and prospective employers, law enforcement agencies, etc. -- may be able to access information you'd rather keep private. What kind of information? Here's an example: an insurance agent recently told me to be very careful about discussing health issues online, because insurance companies looking for a reason to cancel a policy are not above using whatever's available, including a comment or forum question.
Now for the (kinda sorta) good news: in a separate piece, the Journal provides a list of ways to delete scraped information by opting out of some of the bigger databanks. If you've got absolutely nothing to do for a week to ten days, then following the complexities of sixteen different opt-out procedures should not be a problem. If you have an actual life, though, good luck. And in the end, opting out may be a waste of time. Even after navigating all the various hoops required to delete your details, if your personal information remains online anywhere, a simple"'rescraping" by the data miners cancels out your hard work and restores you to the database.
Actually, now that I think about it, you may be better off not requesting deletion. Somehow the whole opt-out procedure seems like it's designed to highlight people who need more careful scrutiny. After all, you must be up to something nefarious if you're that desperate to be opt-outized and anonymated!