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    October 2012
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    TANSTAAFL – “free” email accounts – oh really??

    Ian Whiting

    Going back in time for this one – due to recent article in Vancouver Sun and other places about a pending class-action suit (at least the plaintiff is asking for CA status) regarding the “mining” of information from emails sent to and from so-called “free” email accounts.

    So let’s get off the privacy bit for a minute – how many people REALLY believe that these accounts are made available out of the goodness of the hearts (if any) of these corporations?? Same goes for E-Post by the way!

    Remember – There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch

    Browsers, search engines and all of the other so-called “free-ware” comes with the price that we leave footprints in the sand – crumbs on the forest floor (a la Hansel and Gretel) or whatever. Those bits of information are pure gold to these companies.

    They indicate our taste in everything from food to entertainment to clothes to our political beliefs to where we bank to what we read and watch to the news we choose to believe to x-rated websites we view – if you use an internet connection to do ANYTHING there is a trail to and from you to everywhere you go – and back. I hope no-one is really under any illusions to the contrary – and parents need to be VERY aware of their childrens’ usage. BTW, this also applies to texting on cell-phones, iPhones etc. – if it is electronic, there is a trace – just keep that in mind all the time.

    All of these corporations sell the information they gleen from our wanderings to other businesses so they can target us with their advertising and also help (at least in theory) designing and creating new products and services.

    So what can you do about it – short answer, virtually nothing! There are some commercially available software packages that promise browsing anonymity – but just think about that for a minute – too good to be true?? YES. Nothing can screen you or your on-line presence from someone or some entity that is determined to find out what we are doing on the world of floating electrons.

    Another issue is wi-fi security. Unfortunately, many people with wireless/wi-fi connections in their homes leave their networks unprotected completed – no security – or use such simple passwords like password admin administrator etc. – believe it or not. As a fun exercise, take your wireless/wi-fi enabled laptop or notebook with you in your car. Drive around with your wireless/wi-fi radar enabled, and you will see lots of SECURED access points but also a high number of UNSECURED ones. Internet cafes are wonderful and convenient, but remember, you are in a public place using a public connection.

    So how is this all about TANSTAAFL – part of the cost we pay, although not in terms of absolute cash, we pay by giving up some measure of privacy. You need to determine the value and worth of your privacy!

    The MONEY® Network