State of privacy illustrated (by a tech-literate law student)

By Anne Collier

Its creator, 27-year-old Brendan O’Connor calls it “CreepyDOL” (because it is certainly creepy). You could also call it Personal PI, since anyone with a portable, very hide-able little device like this would hardly need to hire a private investigator. In fact, this spying device written up in the New York Times indicates not only that the private-eye business is on the wane, but also that we have less privacy than any social-media critic ever dreamed and we have a lot more to worry about than creepy Facebook ads. Including “Big Brother.” What O’Connor created is “a data visualization system to monitor what the sensors picked up: all the wireless traffic emitted by every nearby wireless device, including smartphones.” And what do they pick up? Reams of information – the Times’s Somini Sengupta goes into detail. She writes that O’Connor never tested the system on anyone but himself – because he’s a law student and founder of a security firm and knows the laws and colleagues who’ve run afoul of them – but he presented it at both the DefCon and Black Hat security conferences in Las Vegas last week, “including at a session for young people” as “a window into how cheap and easy it is to erect a surveillance apparatus.”

So contrary to popular opinion, it’s not just teens who might have large “invisible audiences” in social media and technology, social media services aren’t the biggest sources of privacy leakage, and social media users aren’t their own worst (potential) enemy. And when parents of software code writers and hackers talk with their kids about the job and income opportunities in computer and network security, they may also want to talk about the ethics and laws Sengupta touches on in her article.

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