Consumer Beware; Information on the InterWeb

What is becoming an increasingly bigger problem on the Internet is the amount of information available.  We live in a country which guarantees freedom of speech, so should the government step in when it can be harmful to its citizens.

Blogs, bank accounts, drivers licenses, pictures, addresses, phone numbers and everything else you can think of is just a click away on the world wide web.

Professor, software developer and author, Herbert H. Thompson decided to run his own experiment ‘to see how vulnerable people’s accounts are to mining the Web information.’  Thompson asked his friends permission to attempt to hack into their accounts.  The results were staggering.  Access to a few simple things such as a Google search, a public blog and online resume he was able to ascertain bank information by logging onto his friends’ email accounts.  “To be clear” Thompson wrote in his article for American Scientific in August 2008 “this isn’t hacking or exploiting vulnerabilities, instead it’s mining the Internet for nuggets of personal data.”

Now, this was in 2008, almost four years ago.  Imagine what people who are just ‘mining the Internet’ are capable of now.

I have always been a fan of regulation.  I am an idealist at heart and want to believe that my government is going to work in my best interests, protecting me every step of the way.  But not everyone feels this way.

When talking about government regulation we walk a fine line of freedom versus security.  If we allow the government to begin to regulate the Internet we will be allowing what countries like China and Russia already do; they censor.  In comparison, countries like Spain, Germany and France use their Internet regulation solely for the purpose of protecting its citizens.  Websites that are seen as an invasion of privacy such as GoogleMaps are not permitted.  As a whole, the European Union is always quick to prevent privacy invasion, where as the United States usually always leans towards “laissez faire.”

One of the biggest problems with this glut of personal information is that we put it out there.  The internet gleans most of it’s information from consumers.  We upload pictures on Flickr, use online banking, put our birthdays on FaceBook and we blog intimate details about our life.  More than that, when we sign up for things online, anything, shopping, newsletters or a new email account, who really reads the ‘terms and conditions’ for all we know we could be selling our souls.  But what can be so bad, everyone else does it, right?



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