Privacy Expectations on the Internet?

I note that Google has come in for some stick from Privacy International, an International Human Rights Watchdog, for being “hostile” to privacy in a report that ranked leading Internet firms on how well they handle personal data. This London-based group claimed that Google was leading a “race to the bottom”. Google naturally responded that the report was mistaken and it was working hard to safeguard user data.

Perhaps I’ve missed the point on this debate. But it strikes me that we do have a choice. You don’t have to use the Internet. Many people that do are quite comfortable entering their personal data on Web pages for others to see. And most people today are mature enough to recognize that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. If you get a free service then it’s likely to be at the cost of an advertising sell. That’s not a bad thing. Small and medium-sized enterprises rely on customer information and direct mail to promote their products. They’re not evil. Such advertising serves a useful economic purpose.

If you don’t like being connected to billions of other people, then don’t use the Internet. But once you engage with it, you should lower your expectations of privacy. Because it’s a powerful data sharing medium. That’s what it’s all about.

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