Good-bye to privacy?

Learn about major new threats to your privacy, from social networks to advertisers to yourself.

Mobile Stalking

Without a handle on your GPS-equipped smartphone or geolocation services, you may have only yourself to blame for "friending" Big Brother. Here's why.

Mobile social networks Foursquare, Gowalla, and Loopt are designed to make it easy for your friends to track your whereabouts as you go to restaurants, bars, and shopping malls. A bevy of iPhone and Android mobile apps make use of location information. Facebook says it will introduce features later this summer that will make location sharing as easy as updating your status.

These services have privacy advocates urging consumers to be careful as to how much they reveal about themselves. In February, privacy groups spoke at congressional hearings on consumer privacy and have been urging lawmakers to limit how much advertisers can track users of these services. Privacy guidelines for location-based services and advertising are outdated and obsolete, they say.

Peer Privacy Pressure

Reward-based geolocation services such as Foursquare, which doles out coupons and "points" for members who broadcast their location, spur these concerns.

"You need to consider whether there is anything that your location might indicate about you that you don't want to be public," says Peter Eckersley, senior staff technologist with the Electronic Frontier Foundation civil liberties group. For example, he says, "are you going to church? To a political meeting? To a nightclub? To the beach on a Tuesday? Are there people who might hold those things against you?"

Mobile Ad Targeting

Still other experts worry about advertisers eager to break into a nascent direct-to-mobile marketing industry. Mobile social network Loopt says it is developing an ad service that can target offers to repeat customers of a specific store just as they walk in. The company says that advertisers want to reach people as they are making a buying decision.

Apps that run on smartphones and location-aware gadgets, such as the iPad, also concern privacy activists. "With the help of GPS technology, every advertiser is going know where you are [and] what you're doing on your phone," says the CDD's Chester. Mobile apps--even e-readers--will know how close you are to a mall, a restaurant, or your doctor's office, for instance.

Can We Stop Looking Over Our Shoulders?

What is the future of privacy? Will we all just throw up our hands and agree with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who famously stated in 2009 that "the age of privacy is over"? Better Advertising's Meyer believes that the creepy "someone is watching me" feeling will dissipate as technology allows you greater control over your privacy, and as transparency increases.

Maybe then we can all stop looking over our shoulders.

PCWorld contributor Ian Paul helped with this report.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags internet privacysocial networkingsocial networksFacebookprivacy

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Tom Spring

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?