The Reality of Online Privacy: You Have None

The Congressional hearings this week on mobile privacy have the issue of online privacy buzzing again.  But it probably won’t last long.  Convenience has trumped privacy so far in the 21st century.  We live in times were Big Brother isn’t the government, but marketing and advertising – and most of us have opted in.

But here’s a reality we ALL need to remember.  There is no such thing as online privacy.


If you write something or share something online – at a forum, on a social network or on a website – even via an email.  It is public.  It is being cataloged, curated and saved.  It can be tracked back to you – or at least to an IP address that is being used by you or your company.

When you are shopping online the cameras are rolling and recording.  There are cookies being actively planted on your hard drive.  There is tracking software not only looking at what you purchased, but at what you looked at before you made your purchase.  It is doing this so it can figure out how to sell to you better.

When you search Google for something – it remembers that search.  Forever (whatever that means in today’s cache and save online climate).  In other words, Google knows you were searching for nude photos of Natalie Portman six years ago.  It also knows you were searching for hair replacement remedies last week.

You can even go back and look at your searches – and edit them if you like.  Although it is doubtful that Google actually permanently deletes this information from your profile.

When you like and share on Facebook you are not only liking and sharing with your friends, but with Facebook.  The company knows everything you do on Facebook and provides many of those insights, trends and information with the brands that are using the platform.

As Facebook’s newest sales head recently told Advertising Age:

“I’m going to be focused with premium brands as well as media and creative agencies; to have them be partners with us and to figure out what it means to use social in the form of marketing… What we’re trying to do at a simple level is be advocates on behalf of brands.”

Your work email doesn’t belong to you.  It belongs to your company.  Even if you delete an email – it still exists and can be recovered.  The same goes for your work computer.  It records where you have been, information that you have sent, websites that you have visited.  This history is difficult to remove from the hard drive – and nearly impossible for the lay person.

It is important to remember that privacy is an illusion online.  You may be alone in your office or by yourself in your apartment when browsing the Internet.  But you aren’t alone.

Think before you post.  Understand that your actions online are being recorded and could come back to haunt you.

Also remember: Once your privacy has been violated – you can’t get it back.


Is Privacy Over?

Media Decoder on Privacy and Mobility

Advertising Age Interview with Facebook’s Sales Chief

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