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2013 is The Year of the Proxy

If we learned anything from 2012, it’s that Google is in control, and apparently the FTC agrees. Google can do what it wants, and has the cash to fund the lobbyists to get formal “approvals” that hedge liability. But Google isn’t the biggest threat.

Google is a fairly low risk threat compared to many of the far more aggressive, more desperate players that will “pile on” as Google advances these new cultural standards of privacy and ethical corporate behavior cloaked as “protecting the user experience”. For every inch Google secures for itself, scammy-er players will take a mile. There are too many of these aggressors to count, but you know many of them already: Verizon, cable companies, Bell South, etc etc. Everyone who has access to your info or control over your access to information and technology, will cash in as possible.

The legal stuff is in place already, and the consumer protections gutted. Your activity data and personal information is the currency of the decade, and everyone is trading it, usually without your consent (and often without your knowledge). Sometimes I get the sense that Facebook is a distraction. “Oh my, look at how Facebook is violating your privacy”.. meanwhile your credit card activity is being sold, your driver license is being resold, your Netflix viewing preferences are being sold, your medical data is being “shared” with the MIB, and your DNA can be collected and analyzed from the public airspace without your consent nor involvement.

Entrepreneurs have attached high def cameras to cars that drive around all data solely to collect license plate activity data, because they know someone will pay for that some day. Drive around all day? For no reason, except to film the public streets and digitally record the presence of specific cars, via license plates designed for easy image recognition? Yes. Compared to information about you, gas, drivers, cars, and insurance are cheap!

And as companies continue to lock the IP as “identifier” for your residence, MAC addresses and OS hashes as identifiers of your devices, secretly raid your contacts list whenever you do anything that grants permission to apps, and require “real names” and “recognizable photos” for social media accounts, the proxy will rise in value.

I predict that 2013 will be the Year of the Proxy.

The value of a proxy.. the “substitute” that will stand in and represent you (instead of you being there, yourself) will rise tremendously in 2013. Identity proxies, communication (routing) proxies. Environment (OS, browser, device) proxies. And as that value rises, the technology to proxy will become more sophisticated. As proxy technology becomes more accessible, those players trading on our data will invest to defeat them. Coalitions will be formed, and more organized trading institutionalized. Many of you will get jobs working FOR those seeking to own us and defeat the proxies.

Expect the traditional resistance to our increasing resistance to being tracked and herded. “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they attack you…” has already started. In the SEO world, the “ridicule” stage in the form of “conspiracy theory” claims started 15 years ago or more. When Google went public, it declared SEO as a major threat to the Google business model. Obviously I recall much of that “history of SEO”, but I suspect everyone with SEO “common sense” by today’s standards recognizes Google is not what Google said it was years ago. The same is true for the other players… and each of us must decide how we will participate in their world going forward. For many of us, the proxy will continue to serve, and we will need stronger and more sophisticated proxy technology in order to survive.

Keep in mind “proxy” includes social media avatars, trade names, aliases, secondary accounts, actual proxy servers for communications routing, abstracted interfaces, IP rotators, cookie managers, lawyers, corporations, and numerous other “everyday tools of business” that cost money and are not generally available to “normal” everyday citizens (the same ones that are told “if you have nothing to hide, what are you afraid of???”).

Beware those who tell you you have no privacy, and should “get over it”, and those who suggest that “maybe you shouldn’t be doing” whatever you are hiding behind a proxy.

By the way, the threat of making the proxy “illegal” is very real, and some efforts are already known (in some cases, it is already legally defined as arguably “fraud”). Personally, I expect the public to be just barely smart enough to prevent that from really happening in the near future, although I don’t expect us to avoid a period of the “I can’t believe they actually passed that law” reality here in the US.

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