OFFICIAL SECURITY BLOG
June 25, 2013 | BY Jérôme Segura
Over the years, online privacy has not been spared very much with from Adware and Spyware that monitor your browsing habits to serve customized pop-ups or hijack your search results.
It got so bad that the Federal Trade Commission had to intervene due to the number of complaints.
Things have changed, but many of those same companies have regrouped under different names and operate a slightly different business model, still making money hand over fist.
Large corporations, like Google, have come under heavy fire with regard to data collection and privacy.
Recently, the European Union has come after Google with sanctions for breaching data protection laws. The search engine giant is known for having amassed one of the largest customer databases ever known with data such as full names, phone numbers, addresses, credit card numbers, search query logs, phone calls made, contact lists, etc.
It wouldn’t be fair to forget to mention Facebook, which has had its fair share of privacy blunders, something that cannot go unnoticed when you are the world’s largest social networking platform.
In fact, just last Friday, Facebook apologized to its users for a flaw in its system that allowed people to view private phone numbers and email addresses.
This technical glitch had been in existence for a year, and according to Facebook, six million users have been affected.
While some attempts have been made by software companies to come up with new privacy features in their products (e.g., Internet Explorer’s InPrivate browsing, Google Chrome’s Incognito mode), whatever hope was left may very well have been shattered with the recent NSA leaks about the PRISM surveillance program that revealed how the U.S.’s top Internet companies were turning over private user data to the government.
Whether data is being sent automatically (think apps that sync to the cloud) or driven by users (placing a phone call, uploading photos), the end result is that it’s all there somewhere being logged and stored. Some people argue that they have “nothing to hide,” that they’re not doing anything wrong and could not care less if their private information was accessed, especially if it helped the effort to track down terrorists.
While there is no doubt that ready access to data is an invaluable asset for intelligence agencies, it is really important to remember that each individual has a fundamental right to privacy.
There is a paradox in that more and more people are openly sharing very private data, and yet people are also very concerned when their privacy has been affected:
As humans, we thrive on communicating with each other, and the social tools we have available today make this so easy.
You snap a picture with your phone, and seconds later it is available to someone all the way across the country.
And, of course, relationships are often complicated, and some of our friends aren’t really “friends”:
If you do care about your privacy, or if you think that one day you might, you are not alone.
Just because technology allows us to share so much stuff doesn’t mean we should.
And keep in mind that those apps and social networks weren’t necessarily created with your best interest in mind.
Your private information is extremely valuable; in fact, it is a treasure trove for advertisers and is worth billions of dollars to those who sell it – and you’re not going to get one single penny for it.
Aside from advertisers, there are many other parties interested in certain things about you for their own benefit – perhaps to even use that personal information against you.
Here are some tips to safeguard your privacy. Feel free to suggest more ideas, or if you disagree, you are welcome to leave a comment.