Last year's revelations about the National Security Agency (NSA) mining data on millions of law-abiding Americans caused a public uproar. But privacy and cyber security experts agree that private companies such as Google, Facebook, airlines and banks all have far more data on us than the government. It's all thanks to our brave new world of smart phones, cyber-banking, cyber-shopping, and social media. Historian and espionage expert Richard Aldrich recently told a conference in Amsterdam that we will soon live in a "transparent society," a world with no true privacy. He compared it with living "in a nudist colony."
Perhaps Aldrich's prediction is a bit extreme, but others agree that things are headed that way when it comes to privacy and cyber security. "We spend a lot of our time interacting with these little computers and not-so-little computers--our phones, our laptops--we're on a browser on the Internet for hours a day," says Rice University IT expert Chris Bronk. He tells KTRH that all of that time we spend connected causes us to leave a trail of data, "cyber exhaust" as he refers to it. "Big tech companies, the Googles and Facebooks of the world, can mine into this information and figure out pretty easily who we are," says Bronk.
In Aldrich's speech, he noted that companies can now predict your buying behavior or even your voting behavior based on what websites you've visited, pages you've liked on Facebook, or items you've purchased online. Bronk agrees, but says it is happening too fast for many people to keep up with. "This (technology) is all still very new, and I don't think a lot of folks understand just how pervasive the decline of privacy is." Nevertheless, he doesn't see the trend changing anytime soon. "Most of the folks in our society prefer convenience over privacy or security, that's just where we're stuck," says Bronk. "And I don't know what changes that."