A Little Privacy, Please!

“Hi!
This is Yateen. I got your fax confirming the e-mail about the
voice mail on the subject of our virtual chat that we had after
you paged me. I am dying to show you my scanned engagement pictures.
Why do not we get together for coffee at amazon.com? I tried
your mobile but got it busy hence leaving this message on your
answering machine.”

With new
gadgets, expanded ranges, advanced features, and cheaper prices,
the world is shrinking ever more rapidly. Technology is embedding
deeply in our lives and these days our language itself has more
of jargon than other words. Sometimes, I wonder, would I be
able to unplug myself from the global network? Iridium (a global
wireless communications network composed of 66 low-earth-orbit
satellites) is about some serious connectivity. No more hiding
in the corners of the earth”s far reaches, no more dodging the
office, no more personal down time. E-mails, fax, mobile phones,
Net conferences, videoconferences, voice mails, phones, and
pagers-all preventing from getting unplugged. The world of tomorrow
is a world of access, a world of seamless communication, a world
that never stops talking.

Perhaps
being hardwired into the global human collective will propel
us forward to our next evolutionary level. Maybe we will all
come to expect more of each other because of our constant access,
and compel each other to new heights. Or maybe we will just
drive each other nuts. Either way, the world is closing in on
us, and instant access cannot be far away. One number assigned
for life, following you wherever you may go.

Computer
telephony is coming to the Internet with a vengeance. Major
development in this field is supercharging the World Wide Web
(WWW) with computer telephony technology, platform hooks, and
links: Get voice to the customer visiting you on the Internet;
build CT messaging servers and GroupWare apps on the Intranet
paradigm. Also making a small splash is the wacky (yetmarginally
interesting) push of Internet telephony making nearly free (although
sometimes unintelligible) long-distance voice and video calls
on the Net. Many businesses are increasing their competitive
advantage with better customer contact, lower operating costs,
and improved service. WWW technology is a great way to set up
services that empower both customers and employees with greater
freedom to serve themselves quickly and cheaply. It ties in
perfectly with client/server CT automation.

As the world
becomes more and more digital so do we, challenging us to restrict
and control our personal information in cyberspace. Regardless
of whether you like it or even know it, you have already established
a digital identity. That identity is a constantly growing and
shifting amalgam of your personal information, stored in the
database of Internet Service Providers (ISPs), mobile phone
service providers, banks, and more agencies than we can imagine.
That shifting, inchoate digital identity is destined to become
much more “real”. It will be sharply defined because
you will construct and control your own digital persona, carrying
it with you, embedded in a card or microchip, at all times.We are already
several generations into the computer era; it is too late to
try to reverse the development of digital identities. The Internet
has accelerated this process by easing the task for others to
aggregate multiple bits of information about you. Your income,
buying habits, reading preferences, opinions expressed in chat
rooms or via e-mail, browser bookmarks-not to mention financial
data from banks, mortgage companies, and credit card issuers-your
addresses, e-mails on the web, digital cards-all this and more
is available in digital format.

As we head
into the new millennium privacy is no longer the right of every
person “to be let alone”. It is not even the ability
to withhold personal information. In years to come very few
would forego a home mortgage rather than fill out a loan application.
Very few would refuse medical treatment rather than divulge
their social security numbers to insurance providers? In truth,
our privacy has not been taken from us. We have bartered it
away, bit by bit, for services and modern conveniences-credit
cards, debt cards, cell phones, e-mails, voice mailboxes. We
are getting entangled in the world of passwords, access codes,
and plastic money.

Privacy
is no longer about voluntary anonymity. Privacy in the digital
age means the ability, through legal and technical means, to
control information about us. Equally important will be the
widespread social acceptance-even the expectation-of individuals
having access to those controls and using them on a regular
basis.

You should
not be surprised then, to realize that securing your rights
and abilities to control the gathering and use of these kinds
of digital data will become a greater part of the national,
political, and social debate. There is a growing acceptance
by web-based businesses that they have to post detailed privacy
policy on their sites. Microprocessors are set to play a bigger
role in the security arena.

The trend
towards building user-id technology into microprocessors-designated
to provide a numerical id, say, when you make an electronic
transaction on the web-is accelerating and privacy groups are
up in arms.

Pentium
III ”s unique processor-identification number is used to track
and validate e-commerce transactions. The number helps identify
the owner of a chip for a web site when a transaction takes
place and assists Intel in tracking stolen chips. Intel isn”t
alone bringing security and microprocessors
together. Advanced Micro Devices and National Semiconductors
are evaluating technology similar to Intel is though it is not
clear yet how it might be implemented. Many IT managers are
having an incredible amount of concern over the security solutions
that are being deployed and whether they are strong enough.The unexpected
strong reaction to Pentium III”s unique serial number emphasizes
to the entire PC industry the growing intensity of the digital
identity debate. We have seen fundamental flaws detected in
the implementation of a variety of security algorithms and solutions
as they have been deployed, which attacks the fundamental premise
by which the new connected world is being delivered.
Things like these questions about the exact definition of privacy
policies in themselves and the fundamental rights of visitors
to keep their personal information personal. The IT industry
would prefer to avoid the onus of government regulation, and
it is even possible that the industry is better equipped to
regulate itself. Nevertheless, the fact that more than half
of the sites and businesses with privacy policies provide no
contact information combined with the fact that one-third of
all sites are without any privacy policies, means that there
is plenty of room for improvement.

A truly
comprehensive privacy policy would adhere to five criteria.
It would notify customers that their information was being collected,
let them refuse to have their information collected, permit
them to review and change their information when necessary,
promise to keep their information secure, and provide contact
information for questions.

Implementation
of variety of security algorithms and solutions and to make
them hacking proof is a challenging task on the road of technological
developments. The fantastic advances in the field of electronic
communication constitute a greater danger to the privacy of
the individual. Maybe but at least I can call my broker while
I am on Tokyo express highway or retrieve my e-mail from my
office in Tokyo while I am sitting on the marine drive looking
at the Arabian Sea.

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