I'm finally worried about privacy on the internet--normally, I go on and on about products that are made in China, the poor performance of traffic lights or the silliness of speed limits. I've spent the last two hours trying to carve out a little privacy online and I am now almost sure that I am going to fail. Today I learned of a project called Panopticlick (check it out. It is one click and inspired this entire post), which can probably tell who you are, even though you might not have cookies enabled, and even though you might have your browser set to "Private Browsing Mode, and even if you're using a proxy (If you want to see some other things about you, and you use Google, log in, click here, and have a look around).
A little over 200 years ago, an English philosopher named Jeremy Bentham came up with an idea for a prison called a Panopticon (Wikipedia) It is a bank of prison cells wrapped around in a circle with a slit-windowed guard tower in the center. The guard(s) in the tower can watch any of the prisoners, and so each prisoner does not know whether or not he is being monitored. After a while, the guards don't even need to be in the tower all the time--the prisoners police themselves.