Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?

Hands off my info! 


“Quit Facebook Day” has been and gone and I’m not sure of the impact (not much as Facebook reached its 500 millionth member on 21 July 2010) but there is increasing unrest among the citizens.

Eleanor Mills in the Sunday Times had a pop at them; “Facebook’s friendship trap”, covering much the same ground as in my earlier posting So many “friends” yet still lonely.

She was probably more concerned about the impact on social skills, happiness, and real friendships than the privacy issues, but it’s still worth reading again about the dumbing down effects.  http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article7139965.ece

It turns out that Facebook is not the only American company to be collecting personal data. Apparently Google has admitted that its Street View cars have been gathering information from people’s wi-fi activity for the last 3 years. They have now  been asked to destroy the personal data by the UK’s Information Commission.

And like me I bet you didn’t know that when you sneak a free photocopy at work or copy something confidential you are leaving a digital record. Apparently nearly all machines made since 2002 contain a hard drive which archives all your copies.

Updated 23 July 2010: A short piece in the Daily Mail (23 July 2010) by Emma Messenger makes the same point about hard drives and the fact that they will keep any personal data that may have been copied such as medical certificates and payslips.

She then tells us that many photocopiers are sold second-hand to Nigeria, the home of identity theft and other well-known internet scams. You have been warned! Don’t make copies of personal stuff at work as you don’t know where it will end up.

And I remember reading somewhere that in America all photocopiers embed a hidden code in the copies to allow those nice people from Homeland Security to be able to identify the source of the copy (but perhaps I’m just becoming paranoid?).

Updated 23 August 2010: After Facebook we have Face.com, a company that plans to release Photo Finder technology that can identify individuals on social networking sites and on-line galleries. The company claims it is 90% accurate as it measures distances between facial features on typical sites and has already been released to thousands of software developers to use in their own applications.

So the technology used by the UK Border Agency will be coming to a social networking site near you very soon. Facebook’s Photo Finder, I-photos’ Faces and Google’s Picasa, all do the same thing (no wonder Google’s boss said we will all need to change our names in future to get rid of our internet past).

The International Red Cross has welcomed it as it thinks it can help trace people lost in humanitarian disasters and genealogists can see uses for it too in tracing family ancestors. There are no legal restrictions on the use of facial recognition software in the UK at present and there are concerns about intrusion into people’s private lives. It seems that soon there will be nowhere to hide.

Updated 4 November 2010: In my original post back in June I described how Google cars were not only taking pictures but capturing personal data along with the GPS data from wi-fi networks. This was completely illegal and in violation of the Data Protection Act. It causes international outrage and investigations were launched abroad.

Here in the UK however the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO)  said the company would not be fined as they had promised not to do it again! Google have escaped a fine of up to £500,000 and will be subject to an official audit of its data protection practices.

Many people must be wondering if the ICO really cares about our privacy and is it fit for purpose?


Author: mikethepsych

He says he's a psychologist but aren't we all?

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