Privacy - the high cost of free lunchIt is an already known and established fact that using free Wi-Fi networks and online services such as free web-based e-mail, social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Linked-in, shopping sites such as Amazon and entertainment sites like YouTube comes at a certain “price”, which not all of us are willing to pay.
The “price”, which users of the mentioned services pay, is

the involuntary collection of personal data

such as the signal strength of the used network, the user's personal data like user-name, passwords, and even demographics, including name, sex, age, address, current location and income bracket by the companies, which provide the services.

The collection of personal data of users is justified by free web service providers with the fact that this type of industry survives from payments by advertisers, corporate clients and government agencies. These companies and agencies collect personal data in order to function more efficiently. For example, knowing the particular tastes of a given user, the advertiser could offer the most appropriate products to that particular user. Although this justification seems logical and makes the collection of personal data seem harmless, the existence of intelligent algorithms, which could, using all the collected data, build a dossier, which contains intimate and personal details of a given individual, makes this collection unacceptable.

Recently, the U.S Court of Appeals ruled that Google had infringed the federal Wiretap Act by intercepting people’s e-mail messages along with their network identification, signal strength, username, password and other data from unsecured wireless networks in more than 30 countries. Google had argued that the above interception was permitted by the law in the same way as intercepting “electronic communications readily accessible to the general public” is. The U.S Court, however did not accept this argument, stating that while listening to the radio or watching T.V was exempted from the prohibitions in the Wiretap Act, the interception of unencrypted wireless networks in order to gather users' data, required special technology and knowledge and thus could not fall within the definition of “communications readily accessible to the general public”.
It is argued by some commentators that users, who don't want their personal data collected, should switch to paid services, which offer a higher level of security.

There's no such thing as a free lunch.
The bill is presented, sooner or later.
Tags: Privacy