Saturday, March 04, 2006

Internet Privacy is Becoming a Growing Concern

Recently in the news, ISPs (Internet service providers) have been faulted for releasing private information to the NSA (National Security Agency). In fact, we can probably expect to see a lot of legal action over this in the near term.

Given the amount of potential terrorism, the NSA is dealing with, I speculate they have little time to interfere in a normal citizen's privacy. To me, the real issue is the so-called "Information Industry," which has been gathering personal information (for resale) on all of us for years.

The result of this data harvesting has been a record number of data breaches, where massive amounts of people's personal information is compromised.

Tor, which is sponsored by the Electronic Frontier Foundation is a free option for those people, who do not want to have their personal information exposed.

According to Wikipedia:

"Tor is an implementation of second-generation onion routing - an anonymity system enabling its users to communicate anonymously on the Internet. Originally sponsored by the US Naval Research Laboratory, Tor became an Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) project in late 2004."

Tor (anonymity network) is a " toolset for a wide range of organizations and people that want to improve their safety and security on the Internet. Using Tor can help you anonymize web browsing and publishing, instant messaging, IRC, SSH, and other applications that use the TCP protocol. Tor also provides a platform on which software developers can build new applications with built-in anonymity, safety, and privacy features."

"Tor aims to defend against traffic analysis, a form of network surveillance that threatens personal anonymity and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security. Communications are bounced around a distributed network of servers called onion routers, protecting you from websites that build profiles of your interests, local eavesdroppers that read your data or learn what sites you visit, and even the onion routers themselves."

While this technology has the potential for abuse, as long as businesses gather this information and criminals steal it, a person should have the right to defend themselves. The criminal element on the internet probably already has access to this technology and is known to use other methods, such as using stolen identities, taking accounts over and even bot-nets to conceal their true identities. The reality is that criminals already use more than this to cloak their true identities and the solution is to identify the root causes of why they are able to do this.

We also need to accomplish this without making the common person vulnerable to abuse.

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