Surviving the digital swarm

Your privacy is a cloud of data scattered on servers that are beyond your control. your Digital profile is regularly bought and sold without your permission. governments can track you by GPS without a warrant. Sure, it’s all part of life in the digital age. But it’s okay to be annoyed about the extent of it. And it’s definitely okay to fight back.

Threat level
Victims: Anyone who uses technology
Damage: A slow but manageable leak of personal information, behaviour and geographic location

Location-based services
By using a phone’s GPS chip to broadcast your location – and by making it easy to find friends who have done the same – “geosocial” networking services such as Foursquare, Facebook Places and Gowalla are transforming the way people interact in the real world. And whereas a log of your movements is gold to marketers, broadcasting this information can potentially have more dangerous consequences (see “Location-Based Creeps”). Security researchers have shown that it’s possible to hijack info from geosocial services that was meant to be shared only with friends, and many users don’t bother with privacy controls at all. “It amazes me that people post their phone number and location,” says Kevin Haley, director of Symantec Security Response. “You’re giving access to yourself to anyone in the world.”

Fight back
Use location-based services to post where you’ve been, not where you are. “The present tense makes you vulnerable,” says Efstratios Gavas, a computer scientist at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University. Set the privacy settings in Facebook Places to block other people from posting your location. And be wary of linking your Foursquare account to Facebook or Twitter – that will reveal your location to the world.

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