“A statutory right to privacy is one very small shield against a vast effort to find out everything about you.”

So says Bernard Keane in today’s edition of Crikey.

Home Affairs Minister Brendan O’Connor’s announcement that Canberra will seek the views of the public immediately on introducing a right to privacy has prompted a flood of views to our inbox. So today we’re kicking off a series on the subject, and the many different responses it has triggered, entitled Privacy Eye.

This extends far beyond breaches of privacy by the media against public figures, politicians and private citizens. That’s just a subset of the broader assault on the confidentiality of your personal information.

As Keane writes today: “The penny is finally starting to drop with citizens that their personal information is highly valuable.”

The government has long known this. So, too, the media. “The internet, however, opened a whole new era of personal information. And, strangely, it wasn’t the traditional media that saw the opportunity best, it was digital natives in companies like Google, Amazon and Yahoo which understood that a search function could be the portal to a new world of personal information that was both granular, right down to an individual’s personal tastes as expressed by what they searched for and clicked on, out to population-level aggregation. Thus Google’s rise — inevitable, in retrospect — as an advertising giant. The big content aggregators didn’t so much cut the traditional media’s lunch on content, as on personal information.”

It isn’t merely the Leviathans of the information ocean like Google that want your information, everyone else does, too. Marketing companies. Retailers. Information brokers. Political parties. Public institutions. And rest assured there are internet bottom feeders, every bit as bad as the likes of Glen Mulcaire of phonehacking fame, desperate to get your most personal information for financial gain. Your privacy is under attack from all directions via an array of sophisticated tools, many of focused on “social engineering” us to reveal information.

Be careful what you click.

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