Today, I add a new dimension to our privacy defenses: thinking about the future. Just because something cannot be found on the Internet today doesn’t mean it will not be available in the future. Think about how much information was available online ten years ago compared to now. Think about how searches are easier and more accurate than ever. New techniques follow a pipeline from intelligence agencies to consumer products: what governments could do yesterday, businesses can do today, and tomorrow individuals will be able to do at home.
Government and industry are releasing more data to the public, including information that used to only be available offline. Paper records are being scanned and made searchable. People are regularly sharing more from their daily lives and digitizing physical media (such as old photos and videos). Governments are still struggling with regulations about privacy and the social-media industry is constantly tinkering with its privacy policies.
How do you defend your privacy in the future? Much the same way you do in the present. Use your imagination and be vigilant. Review my suggestion in “What Are You Worth.” Keep track of laws and policies about what kind of information can be made public, and check your privacy settings for any services you use. Only give out as much personal information as you have to, since it may become findable later.
Search for yourself on Google regularly to see what others can find out about you. Don’t forget an image search too. When reviewing privacy settings, remember to include offline policies, such as credit cards and medical records, in your review.
Assume that any data that’s out there, from you or about you, will eventually be searchable and findable online.