Nick Bilton writes: Anyone who can watch you will watch you.
In technology, that is one of the big lessons of 2013. The National Security Agency and who knows who else have been tracking this or hacking that. China has been breaking into our computers. Google has been sifting through our home networks. Facebook has been tinkering with its privacy settings.
No wonder outfits like Snapchat have exploded onto the scene. They seem to go against the grain, holding out the promise that all those selfies, texts and emails will simply vanish.
Whisper, an “it” app for teens, supposedly lets people share secrets anonymously via smartphone. Telegram is being pitched as the adult version of Snapchat.
But the fact is, many services that claim to offer that rarest of digital commodities — privacy — don’t really deliver. Read the fine print.
“Just because information is unavailable to you and you don’t see it doesn’t mean that it is not being captured, stored, or even seen by someone else in transit,” said Edward W. Felten, a professor of computer science and public affairs at Princeton.
Snapchat’s privacy page explains that private images are stored on someone’s phone — and on its own servers. “Forensically, even after they are deleted,” Snapchat says, those images can be retrieved. Whisper’s privacy page says the company owns the intellectual property, both images and text, that people post; Whisper reserves the right to sell that stuff to third parties. And Telegram, while seemingly less innocuous with its claims, nonetheless leaves out something you might want to know: someone can just take a screenshot or picture of that “private” conversation. [Continue reading…]