Garlik vs. Facebook – your privacy online

I recently posted “does what happens on facebook stay on facebook?”, a very nice flash video revealing some rather distressing details of Facebook’s terms and conditions, as the top link in the sidebar for this site. Then I read about garlik, an online service which says it “finds, tracks and monitors your personal information online”, and that it is “the simple and effective way to protect your privacy and identity”. Right. I’m not sure why they thought consumers who are worried about an unknown company collecting and inappropriately disclosing personal information about them would trust another company. Interestingly, one criticism raised in the facebook video – government ties – equally applies to garlik: one of their board members, Wendy Hall – otherwise an apparently distinguished computer scientist – is “a member of the Prime Minister’s Council for Science and Technology” (source). That said, I’m not sure how this situation can be satisfactorily addressed, that is, how to search for personal information online without using third party tools, and without accessing various resources on the web in a way that is fundamentally opaque to the user. Basically, you’d need to run such an application as a desktop app, and have a traffic monitor digest each packet for you before it’s released to any third party website, in order to be sure that it is only requesting, but never supplying, information. Nonetheless, I do feel that garlik has not undergone sufficient scrutiny, and I’m seriously worried by the CEO, Tom Ilube, stating in a lecture that he intends to sell the business within three years.