Saturday, August 13, 2005

Privacy

I was recently introduced to Zabasearch, an engine that lists all current and previous addresses and contact info for any person you can name. The type of search it provides is obviously not new, but the Zabasearch interface is remarkably easy to navigate, and the info it returns is detailed and in depth.

Coincidentally, as I was going to blog about the legality of spreading information that some people might not want publicized about them, Catallarchy goes and opens miles worth of comments on intellectual property and 3rd party access. In particular, the comments sections are enlightening.

When it comes to things like public listing of your address, it seems impossible to legislate against total freedom of distribution. Information like my address could, theoretically, be held totally secret if I never distributed the info to anyone, if I lived separated from the rest of society were no one would see me returning home, and if no one ever came to my house. When we give address info to companies that contractually agree to keep that info private, we should hold them liable for releasing it. If people see us enter out homes, though, or if we give out our address without a confidentiality agreement, how can we hold anyone responsible for disseminating that information? Simply, we cannot.

People get up in arms about their personal information being sold or obtained by others, but there are no solutions to protect it. Information is so fleeting and intangible that it becomes impossible to regulate, and even if we could, I doubt that we would want to. Is it scary that any person could have so much access to our lives? Maybe, but even without sites like Zabasearch getting personal information is not so difficult, and that easy access comes from living in a networked society.

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