Freecycling

Fighting for freerecyling

Privacy, please consider your privacy

Today the UK government has announced an extremely serious breach of privacy for twenty-five million UK citizens.  Keep abreast of the story as it unfolds, here is a link to the BBC news article.  In brief a CD with personal data has been “lost” whilst in transit between government departments.  What makes this even more alarming is that previously other CDs have also been lost.  These indicate an incredible breach of data protection laws in places where they should be upheld more than anywhere.

However the purpose of this blog is not to chastise of chase down this news item.  The purpose of this blog is to make sure you understand what you can do, what your group members can do to maintain privacy – and why that is important.

Let us start with that last point.  We all expose information about ourselves as we traverse the Internet.  Even so-called anonymous users reveal information about themselves over time, and for the assiduous researcher more details can be found out than one might expect.  For example I would not be surprised if some researcher was able to find out the names of all my family members (assuming I have one!), their dates of birth, places of birth, and other key information such as say dates of marriage (assuming I am actually married).

It is all available, some of it for free, possibly other bits might require someone to pay either nominal amounts or whatever. There are also ways of harvesting this information such as building and running a website that looks bona-fide and asking for information as part of registration.  How often do you register on a website asking for “your mother’s maiden name”.

This is a major headache for the Internet, a real headache. It is one of us stay mostly ignorant of.

An errant person who collects this information often collects islands of data that only when put together actually enable a breach of privacy.  This could be access to bank accounts.  And that is key to the breach as admitted in parliament today, since unencrypted lists of bank accounts are available to anyone who has access that CD and can crack a password.

The advice to freecyclers everywhere is to  NEVER expose anything other than your name and email address to any freecycling group.  My advice to moderators of groups is to advise members of privacy guidelines.  Also should a member, perhaps out of ignorance, do such an exposure blank out that data where possible.  of course this is only possible if the member’s posts are moderated.

There is another point.  Do not become paranoid, just be realistic, stay cool and take care…

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November 20, 2007 - Posted by | freecycle |

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