Internet privacy is dead -- film at 11

Noted security expert Bruce Schneier paints a hopeless picture of Internet privacy. Have we passed the point of no return?

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In that case, I persisted, do we have any recourse? Surely there's something we could do? His response didn't get any better.

None, really. Agitate for better laws. And good luck with that.

Good luck indeed. As he notes in his essay, "Fixing this requires strong government will, but they're just as punch-drunk on data as the corporations. Slap-on-the-wrist fines notwithstanding, no one is agitating for better privacy laws."

What Schneier is really saying, I think, is that we desperately need privacy legislation that draws a line in the sand around the data that defines us. But with Congress acting like chimpanzees who spend all day every day throwing feces at one another, it ain't gonna happen. Thus, it's party time for Web snoops, spring break for data mining corporations, one huge drunken bender for Johnny Law and his cellphone tracking habit. Call it Internet spooks gone wild.

No one is safe

I don't think the situation is quite as hopeless as Schneier lays out in his essay, but it's close. I think privacy is increasingly becoming something only the extremely geeky or the very rich can afford.

If you have enough money, you can effectively shield yourself from many privacy intrusions. You can operate in relative anonymity behind shell corporations and legal proxies. If you're a geek, you can use Net proxies, anonymizers, and encryption to obscure your activities.

But even those barriers are no guarantees. Just ask the very rich, very famous people whose personal finances were hacked and buttered all over the InterWebs last week. Or ping Sabu and the numerous former comrades he's been helping the FBI roll up one at a time.

I for one am unwilling to roll over and give up, or to pull a Kaczynski and hole up off the grid in some backwoods cabin. I think there are things we can and should do to hold on to the shreds of privacy we have left. That's the subject for a future post. But first I want to hear from you.

Is privacy really dead? If so, what should we do to resuscitate it? What do you do to protect yourself? Post your thoughts below or email me:

This article, "Internet privacy is dead -- film at 11," was originally published at Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.

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