In the Post Privacy era, your digital footprint is your identity

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By Byron Acohido, ThirdCertainty

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Welcome to the Post Privacy era. At some point over the next few years your identity will no longer be defined by merely your name, address, Social Security number, financial accounts and legal records.

Instead, your identity will consist of a “constellation of personal information” uploaded to the Internet, often without you realizing it, where it will be proactively data mined by companies, government and criminals.

This includes geo-located and time-stamped data about your pets and hobbies, your daily commuting pattern, where and when you Tweet, where and when you shop, how late you stay up at night, and much, much more.

That chilling prediction comes from Kevin Ashton, the technologist who coined the phrase “The Internet of Things,” delivering the opening keynote at IDT911’s 2014 Privacy XChange Forum.

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Ashton, the General Manager of Conserve, the clean-tech division of consumer electronics giant Belkin, outlined how social media, smart phones and ubiquitous sensors – in toll booths, hotel room keys, smart meters and much more – increasingly feed information that can be tied to specific individuals into giant data bases.

Big shift underwsay

This is happening because computing power continues to get more powerful, in tiny devices that need very little power, and because most people don’t care to understand the true price of using many popular services, such as Twitter.

The immediate future isn’t hard to predict, Ashton observed. The big shift is already underway. Ubiquitous sensors, needing no batteries, will upload more information, about what each individual is doing moment-to-moment. And commercial interests will correlate the data each of us divulge about ourselves using Google, Facebook, Twitter and many other “free” online services we use.

“Privacy is never the default,”  in the Post Privacy era, Ashton says. A free social media site or cloud app may be free of price, but the user pays by giving up time-stamped behavioral data that often is also geo-located.

It’s incumbent on individuals and companies to understand this shift has arrived — and making an effort to become informed and make thoughtful decisions about preserving privacy.

“We have moved so far into a knowledge-based economy, to understand this, requires education, a willingness to pay attention,” Ashton says. “We’re not educating the majority of the population to do that work.”

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