Friday, October 15, 2004

What Privacy?

At least one person is surprised and several more are rather dismayed at just how effective that new Google utility is. Here's what I want to know - exactly how private did any of these people think their email would be, accessing it from a tradeshow floor computer?

Even with passwords, there is caching, there are Sniffers (the original, plus others going by the genericized name), keystroke-capture utilities and all sorts of interesting (and much more hidden than a big ol' icon in the systray) methods of snooping if somebody really wants to know what you're up to. Sure, this is easier. It's also more obvious that you can't expect the level of privacy you wanted.

For that matter, what sort of privacy are we really expecting when we're using computers at work, even when we're the only ones on them? My personal policy generally was to stick with writing and keeping only that information I truly believed in.

Sure, there is a time and a place for everything and there is some information I might prefer stay private, at least for a while. That said, if I conducted myself authentically, there was no point in feeling badly if anyone discovered the "real me". Having anyone read what was on my computer (in theory anyway) would have been no worse than having them overhear a conversation that I held in public.

Aside from making at least basic attempts to be un-snoop-worthy, I also always made an effort to keep my computer locked so that no one else would be able to readily browse around my files & email (Google desktop or no)... I came from the old school where if you want privacy, you have to think about your own security. Teaching that to others in the computer lab at school (WAY back when) usually involved installing a "" file on their account if they walked away from terminals where they were still logged in. The next time they logged in, those students usually found themselves being cursed a blue streak or in some looped program where the only exit was to go to the person who wrote the thing and admit you were an idiot.

My files were mostly nicer than that but I'm guessing that a gentle reminder to "hey, remember to log off next time, dufus!" is not nearly as effective as getting called another crude name every time you tried another command.

So - how big a privacy concern is this utility for you? Will you be using it? Send your thoughts to so we can get an sense of the opinions out there from the sorts of folks I care about.

What does privacy mean to you?