Somebody’s Watching Me

I was watching Detroit 187 last night.  It’s a terrific cop show even if it’s a little disconcerting to see Christopher Moltisanti on this side of the law for a change.  The cast is filled with other familiar faces, the plots are consistently good, and I’m becoming a regular viewer.

In last night’s episode, the cops solved a murder the old fashioned way – examining clues and putting the pieces of evidence together into a coherent completed puzzle to unravel what had happened.  This, of course, made me think of the report coming soon from the FCC as well as a few other controversies out there.  Here’s what I mean.

They caught the killer, who was allegedly out of town during the murder, by examining hotel records.  The killer had been out of her room a lot – they knew this from the key usage.  She’d checked her car out of the valet parking and back in many hours later – they checked the records.  Her car had been tuned up the day before she made the lengthy drive away from Detroit and the records proved that she had driven 300 extra miles before the murder – enough to get her back, do the crime, and return to her hotel.  My point is this:  we leave trails.

The FCC is rightfully concerned with on-line privacy.  If you are ever on the web, you should be too.   If you run a digital business, this needs to be a big focus for you – not because it’s legally important (although it is) but because it’s something your users care about deeply.

That said, it’s important to realize that privacy is not just an on-line issue.  When you use a credit card, when you pay a toll, when you check into a building – we leave footprints everywhere.  Those who scream loudly about  marketers  – both decent and disreputable – and others tracking our web use should be just as concerned about what’s going on away from the web.  If you’re really anxious about who’s watching you surf around, there are over 750 privacy and security plug-ins for Firefox and other browsers can be configured not to track you nor permit others to do so either.

Over 10 years ago Scott McNealy, then the CEO of Sun, took a lot of heat for claiming that consumer privacy issues are a “red herring.””You have zero privacy anyway.” I think he’s right, unfortunately; maybe even more so 10 years later. Making the on-line experience less useful by killing cookies or adding additional fences over which business folks need to jump may not be the right answer. Requiring transparency, clear opt-ins, and setting defaults to being opted-out, makes much more sense to me. On-line should do better than the real world, where as we saw last night, someone is watching and tracking you a lot of the time.

Scary? Your thoughts?


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Filed under digital media, Reality checks

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