I received a note from a good friend last week (a Linux security expert) who has decided to completely stop using public web portals. I got a different take from David Brin (sci-fi writer) when I spent an afternoon with him at his home in California a few years ago: privacy is a lost cause, but as long as everyone has the right to surveillance data, then the situation is OK (I am paraphrasing him – hopefully fairly accurately).
I decided that I am willing to take the privacy hit: my wife and I use discount cards at our two local supermarkets, so every business that cares about it buys data on exactly what we buy and when – and we get a few little discounts. Unless you take extreme trouble to avoid it, just about everything that you do on the internet is public (to companies who are willing to pay for the information, and the government). So, I use convenient public web portals, including my handy KBdocs.com.
I think that many people are artificially nervous about privacy issues in the U.S. right now just because of the Bush administration. However, I believe that enough Americans are fed up with the whacky and radical politics of the Bush neoconservatives, that eventually they will get voted out of office, and things will get back to normal (i.e., middle of the road democrats and republicans selling out our interests to multi-natioanl corporations, which does not seem so bad just because it is so inevitable). So, as much as possible I like to think of this as just being a bad time for American values of civil liberties and free speech, but hopefully things will get back to normal in a few years.