9 May 2008

Our surveillance society goes online

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The Guardian reviews a book that argues that our privacy is under threat by increased digital surveillance.

Being able to make your own decisions and hold your own views without interference; controlling information about yourself; and being in charge of your personal space – these basic elements of privacy are under threat, according to a new book, The Spy in the Coffee Machine: The End of Privacy As We Know It, by Kieron O’Hara and Nigel Shadbolt, two computer scientists at the University of Southampton.

While our offline activities are tracked by CCTV cameras, Oyster cards and RFID tags, the details of our online searches and purchases accumulate in databases that know more about us than we’d tell our closest friends. Many of us also broadcast our lives through blogs and social networking sites. “When one’s self as a social entity, with history, with transactions, is all out there, then privacy is not the same old notion,” says Shadbolt, who is professor of artificial intelligence at Southampton and one of the leading scientists shaping the protocols for the future internet.

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