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As I mentioned a little while ago on this blog (How Much Do You Cost?), online providers of email, storage and assorted business applications are in the business of knowing exactly what is stored on their system. For instance, the information you have stored in your Gmail and other Google applications is available for Google’s internal use.

Thanks to David Rubinstein for picking up on this threat to our privacy and allowing me a bit of a soapbox  on SysManBlog, an excellent resource for IT system administration and data center managers. David quotes me as saying:

"When e-mail was new and organizations wanted to install e-mail systems, we offered to host them, but they wanted the server in their server room. The mentality that e-mail would be moved out of the office was unheard of….”

It's part of a larger trend. It's now quite common for organizations to store critical data in third-party web applications that would be awfully tempting to hackers and ID thieves using a little human intel to gain access to customer databases.This has been a very fast shift, and not just for business people using on-line applications like Salesforce.com.

At the extreme end of this trend, people are uploading their personal information to social media sites like Facebook and MySpace. They do this with the knowledge that these sites retain ownership of any information they upload and that any random visitor to a profile page.

Actually, the random visitors might not be a problem. But employers routinely snoop Facebook regarding potential job candidates (Stanford Daily). How about those tagged photos of you getting into shenanigans at your buddy's stag?

More disturbingly, predators use these sites to lure young victims. Cyber-bullies send threatening and anonymous messages. And of course, ID thieves and fraudsters mine a bonanza of personal information on these sites (TimesOnline).

You can't read a newspaper or magazine these days without a story about people's information and identities being tampered with. So why have most of us become so trusting in a short period of time? Is it because these applications are "free"? Is it the convenience? Or perhaps it is the need to share. This may be all it takes for us to give up control, ownership and privacy.

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Vaclav Vincalek June 27th, 2008 09:39:28 AM

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