The annual RSA conference of security professionals took place in London yesterday. Among the speakers is Bruce Schneier, the Chief Security Technology Officer at BT.
Addressing his remarks to the conference, Schneier outlined his belief that "invasions of privacy" have become an inevitable "byproduct of the IT society" and that individuals "are leaving digital footprints in our everyday lives". Indeed, the "digital footprints" of BT's own customers have in the past been interpreted by the so-called Phorm software which allowed online advertisers to target their messages to individual internet users on the basis of their past surfing habits.
The problem of individuals accumulating unfortunate digital footprints has long been a matter of concern for Big Brother Watch. Such is the scale of the problem, serious questions have been raised as to whether young people may have to change their names later in life in order that they avoid unfortunate photographs and personal information surfacing later in life.
Ignoring BT's own record, Schneier went on to single Facebook out for particular crticism, alleging that the website is sacrificing personal privacy in order to further its commercial position:
"Less privacy makes a better market for social networks. Facebook is the worst offender – not because it's evil but because its market is selling user data to its commercial partners. There's no [commercial] market for a Facebook privacy add-on but if Facebook added extra privacy controls people would want it. Don't fool yourself that use are the user of social networks – you are the product".
When it comes to Facebook, Big Brother watch has a simple piece of advice: do not upload anything to the internet you would not wish to see in the public domain. The prescience of such a piece of advice was perfectly illustrated earlier this week following the news that personal 'phone numbers of users of the Facebook iPhone application were uploaded to the internet without their consent.