Which is the biggest threat: Nosey Parker or Big Sister?

In my blog entry yesterday I forgot to elaborate on the threat to electronic privacy of our friends, enemies and neighbours. Facebook and Bebo are now included in more UK searches than eBay, the BBC, Amazon, Tesco, the BBC and Sky added together.  


According to Brand Republic and Nielsen, Social Networking has overtaken e-mail and nearly half of UK Internet users are regular visitors to Facebook. Visits to social networks and blogs now acount for one in six of our on-line minutes – and older age groups now have the fastest growth rates.

And those searches are socially inclusive: including predators of all kinds as well as current and would-be friends and lovers, parents, recruiters, salesmen, bailiffs, spooks …  

The blocking of a Google camera car needs to be put in the context of reports of Google Earth being used to identify lead rooves to steal by one of Englands most expensive (in terms of the damage he caused) thieves.

Should the cost of his crimes be included in counts of computer-assisted crime?

Should Google, Facebook and others be asked to provide analyses of search patterns to help identify and track others who might be using their services to identify potential victims?

Would such efforts provide better “value for money” than the retention of communications and other data by Internet Service Providers and others?

Is the only privacy in the on-line world that afforded by the off-switch – or is that too an illusion?

Whatever your answers to those questions, the on-line world and the “real” world are rapidly converging. Action on the recommendations for democratically accountable co-operation in the final report of the EURIM-ippr study into “Partnership Policing in the On-line World” is therefore seriously overdue.

Those recommendations are, however, three years old. I therefore welcome comments on what needs to change because I am currently organising work on the update: this time as a basis for action, building on the best of what is already happening, not just recommendations for others.