this is the internet

By way of a conversation I was just having with someone, I realized how easy it is to find out all about a person. It's a simple step-wise deduction process by which you can get that person's complete personal details.

I also realized how scary it is for an average user to find out that the complete stranger you just met on the Internet knows so much about you.

Some years ago, you'd need to hire a detective to do this sort of stuff. But in this age of information technology, all you need is some logical deduction skills, and an Internet connection.

Let me give you a very very basic example of this. When you sign up for email, you enter a desired username, along with lots of private, priviledged information like date of birth, address, etc. So when the username is taken, the email provider conveniently suggests alternatives like username_74 or username_Delhi. A crime in the name of usability, in my view. The user quickly chooses one of these IDs without much thought, but from now on, every person that he writes to knows that Mr. User is 29 years old, or he is from Delhi.

I'm obviously not going to provide any direct links here, but I was amazed at the amount of truly personal information available to the public. I mean, public access databases so convenient to use that it's almost as if they're telling you to go peek into other people's lives. I guess it's a matter of time before the people responsible understand the mistakes they are making, and get this stuff of the public Internet.

|

About the author:

Arnab Nandi is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at The Ohio State University. You can read more about him here.

Before and After


August 2002 : 9 posts September 2002 : 16 posts October 2002 : 7 posts November 2002 : 21 posts December 2002 : 25 posts January 2003 : 8 posts February 2003 : 11 posts March 2003 : 7 posts April 2003 : 21 posts May 2003 : 14 posts June 2003 : 15 posts July 2003 : 4 posts August 2003 : 16 posts September 2003 : 25 posts October 2003 : 15 posts November 2003 : 24 posts December 2003 : 17 posts January 2004 : 6 posts February 2004 : 8 posts March 2004 : 6 posts April 2004 : 5 posts May 2004 : 29 posts June 2004 : 3 posts July 2004 : 17 posts August 2004 : 19 posts September 2004 : 3 posts October 2004 : 4 posts December 2004 : 1 posts February 2005 : 15 posts March 2005 : 18 posts April 2005 : 8 posts May 2005 : 27 posts June 2005 : 73 posts July 2005 : 45 posts August 2005 : 13 posts September 2005 : 3 posts October 2005 : 9 posts November 2005 : 20 posts December 2005 : 6 posts January 2006 : 25 posts February 2006 : 24 posts March 2006 : 37 posts April 2006 : 35 posts May 2006 : 7 posts June 2006 : 22 posts July 2006 : 20 posts August 2006 : 27 posts September 2006 : 15 posts October 2006 : 6 posts November 2006 : 19 posts December 2006 : 4 posts January 2007 : 4 posts February 2007 : 1 posts March 2007 : 3 posts May 2007 : 5 posts June 2007 : 2 posts July 2007 : 1 posts August 2007 : 13 posts September 2007 : 2 posts October 2007 : 21 posts November 2007 : 7 posts December 2007 : 9 posts January 2008 : 4 posts February 2008 : 14 posts March 2008 : 14 posts April 2008 : 11 posts May 2008 : 12 posts June 2008 : 12 posts July 2008 : 5 posts August 2008 : 10 posts September 2008 : 11 posts October 2008 : 10 posts November 2008 : 8 posts December 2008 : 4 posts January 2009 : 6 posts February 2009 : 13 posts March 2009 : 7 posts April 2009 : 7 posts May 2009 : 2 posts June 2009 : 3 posts July 2009 : 4 posts August 2009 : 4 posts September 2009 : 6 posts October 2009 : 4 posts November 2009 : 7 posts December 2009 : 10 posts January 2010 : 3 posts February 2010 : 2 posts April 2010 : 5 posts May 2010 : 1 posts July 2010 : 4 posts August 2010 : 3 posts September 2010 : 4 posts October 2010 : 1 posts November 2010 : 2 posts December 2010 : 3 posts June 2011 : 1 posts August 2011 : 1 posts November 2011 : 1 posts December 2011 : 1 posts February 2012 : 1 posts May 2012 : 2 posts December 2012 : 1 posts June 2013 : 1 posts August 2013 : 1 posts October 2013 : 2 posts