So yesterday I met a "Privacy Expert" for lunch. Since a few of my clients have concerns about digital privacy, I figured it might be a good idea to meet some experts, in case we need some outside help. I might learn something new and meet someone useful. I figured it couldn't hurt to meet for lunch.
Now before I get too much into this anecdote, let me say that I firmly believe you should practice what you preach. If you tell me that Fords are the greatest cars on earth, don't you dare drive a Toyota. If you rhapsodize on the glories of Windows, don't you dare use Linux. Nothing makes me believe you are full of crap faster then not practicing what you preach.
Yesterday, in one of those strange warpings of the space-time continuum, I actually arrived early for lunch. I ordered a drink and killed time reviewing emails. A few minutes later, in walks the Privacy Douchebag. "Am I late?" he asks.
I shake my head and we start the business ritual of formal introductions, hand shakes and business card exchanges. After he orders his drink, he whips out his iPhone and starts fiddling around with it.
"Just checking in with Foursquare," he explains.
I instantly knew this meeting would be a waste of time. My immediate concern was how to escape gracefully.
Foursquare is a web service that let's you tell your friends your exact physical location. The creators made it game-like so you win badges and awards for the number of places you check-in from. This rewards people for using Foursquare often. Basically, it is every paranoid, tinfoil hat wearer's nightmare -- a way for "them" to always find you.
I couldn't help but take this as a bad omen. In my opinion, a privacy consultant should be the paranoid, tinfoil hat wearer. He should be psychotic about protecting every aspect of his personal privacy. He should be the one that religiously changes passwords every odd day and never leaves any building the same way he came in. I want James Bond paranoia, not someone broadcasting his latitude and longitude so Iran can launch missiles at him!
We started talking shop. Needless to say, this jerk has the same privacy ideas you might expect from a 13 year old -- Facebook is cool and a good way to meet girls, Chat Roulette is fun but there are too many guys and computers are awesome because blah blah blah.
I decided to press him on his credentials, seeing as that's the kind of guy I am. He started rattling off a bunch of online training courses and some books he read - nothing too interesting. So I pressed for client referrals which earned me a verbal tap dance that was utter nonsense. I briefly considered some "extreme interrogation techniques" but realized the restaurant might get upset if I waterboarded the Douchebag. Needless to say, I got nothing useful.
I would love nothing more than to out the Privacy Douchebag so you will all know his name. Unfortunately, my fearless attorney, She Who Must Be Obeyed, gave me a lengthy lecture on libel, slander and all the nasty legal repercussions I could face. To be safe, I will chicken out -- this time.
Anyway, the Privacy Douchebag was smart enough not to order dessert or coffee. I think he was as ready to escape my grilling as I was to get away from this waste of space. He thanked me for my time and ran for his life.
And once again I am reminded of a sad truth - Just because he claims to be an expert doesn't make it true! There are far too many con artists trying to capitalize on people's fears. Digital privacy is a serious problem for some businesses (some, not most). Don't let these swindlers take advantage of you.
Find out if they're for real! I'd be happy to help you. Waterboarding is optional.