All entries for Wednesday 28 June 2006

June 28, 2006

Security

Writing about web page http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg19025556.200?DCMP=NLC-nletter&nsref=mg19025556.200

Thank you to Duncan for sending me a link to the above article.

The internet is a fantastic tool: I myself would feel significantly at a loss without it. It allows you immediate access to a wealth of information, allows instant communication across the globe and transfer of data and ideas.

The advantages for scientists, for instance, could be huge: they will have unprecedented access to each other's experimental datasets and will be able to perform their own analyses on them. Searching for products such as holidays will become easier as price and availability dates will have smart tags, allowing powerful searches across hundreds of sites.

However, a comment was posted on my recent entry suggesting that certain contributors might want to restrict the things they mentioned in a public forum. Whilst I have no problem with people contrubuting in whatever way they like to my blog, I do worry that sometimes we may reveal too much. Several times I have read surprised entries from students who have discovered that their parents read their blogs.

"I AM continually shocked and appalled at the details people voluntarily post online about themselves." So says Jon Callas, chief security officer at PGP, a Silicon Valley–based maker of encryption software. He is far from alone in noticing that fast–growing social networking websites such as MySpace and Friendster are a snoop's dream … "You should always assume anything you write online is stapled to your resumé. People don't realise you get Googled just to get a job interview these days"
New Scientist has discovered that Pentagon's National Security Agency, which specialises in eavesdropping and code–breaking, is funding research into the mass harvesting of the information that people post about themselves on social networks. And it could harness advances in internet technology – specifically the forthcoming "semantic web" championed by the web standards organisation W3C – to combine data from social networking websites with details such as banking, retail and property records, allowing the NSA to build extensive, all–embracing personal profiles of individuals.

There are examples of people who have been sacked from their jobs for revealing details of excessive drinking and drug–taking, and some who have been barred from religious colleges after revealing their homosexuality.

Why do bloggers so readily reveal such information online? Do we really consider the potential readership? Should we be more worried about the information employers and even governments can gather? Did the people mentioned above deserve their dismissal or should their treatment have been more lenient?


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