Privacy matters

You don’t need to worry about internet privacy and security if you are not doing anything “wrong”, right? Err, wrong. So wrong. This is everyone’s concern, and we should all take the time to rexamine our internet / smartphone/ social media practices and platforms.

Recently I was prompted to look into Internet security, and electronic privacy concerns generally. It’s something that frequently comes up in the news and among friends, e.g. discussing Facebook. Most of us are by now aware of some of the issues and may even have adopted wiser social media practices in recent times.

However this is just the tip of the (sinister) iceberg… What I have discovered on this little research journey is so alarming, I have decided to share it here.

In brief:

When you really look into all this it’s a far darker and scarier world we live in today- it’s not just about what you share intentionally (as we may have believed so far)- make sure you choose your electronic devices/ apps/ platforms wisely.

It’s also NOT the case that those of us ‘not doing anything wrong’ have nothing to fear– it’s far more complex than that, and we can no longer afford to be so naive… The surveillance state looms large over all these discussions… Freedom of expression, human rights and democracy hang in the balance.

All of these concerns (more info below) are already happening, not ‘possible’ or ‘potential’ threats, but ‘business as usual’ already now.

Tips:

Protonmail is the safest email service as it does not track or spy on you, nor own/ sell your data .. AND it is encrypted. Meaning no back door access to your info by others (for marketing, surveillance or criminal uses).

Search engine that doesn’t track you, and doesn’t manipulate the results according to their own agenda, like Google-
https://duckduckgo.com/

(Update, June 2017: see this recent article about Google fine for manipulating their search engine results- https://www.theverge.com/2017/6/27/15872354/google-eu-fine-antitrust-shopping)

Social media:

Three of the most popular apps (FB, Whatsapp & Instagram) are all owned by FB- axe them off your phone! Now!

Instead try:

minds.com – which has many functions in one, including encrypted chat – and already has a huge following, and lively newsfeeds.

Or
mewe.com – a bit of a newcomer but has taken an explicit ethical stance against tracking/ spying or selling your data.
It is still a bit slow and has some small glitches- but easily and happily functions as any other social media – you can post things to your wall, or use private messenger- to individual contacts or private groups, or join public groups (about parenting, gardening, books or whatever)…

Overview of concerns:
-All apps on smart phones can track and spy and sell your data to third parties!!

(It’s not just FB, although they appear to be the worst)

-Many gather data from other areas of your phone too- not just what you do in that app!!

-Even PCs come with built in software /spyware…
There is now one that doesn’t, but it’s hard to get hold of…and of course most of us won’t change over easily, so..

-All of this cross links and builds a whole profile of you which can be stored by large data companies (dodgy!)- incl. your email, messages, location tracking, internet browsing, photos/ videos, even personal information stored on phone like bank details or pins or kids activities that week…

-AND remember that facial recognition thing Facebook does? When you post a photo and go to tag with the name of a friend, this software offers the name before you choose it because they now also have millions of faces stored in that facial recognition storage bank… Creepy!!!

-All iPhones (and some other devices) can be hacked into/ used to spy on you directly – as in, listen in, record, and video your live movements and conversations!! So it’s no longer just indirect- eg tracking your internet browsing record – and you won’t even see the video or microphone is activated…
(See TED talks below for surveillance industry insiders explaining this)

-Not all will want this level of detail but at least see this scary summary of ‘3rd party access’ to our data via FB when OTHERS in our networks sign up to apps-
“In May 2007, Facebook launched the Facebook Platform. The platform allows third parties to create applications which access Facebook’s database. The applications are meant to function in much the same way that the Facebook created applications work. Applications can publish to a user’s feed and can access that user’s information. When a user adds an application, the information about other users that the given user can see is made available to these third party application providers. The third party application provider may retain some of this information forever, and some information may be retained for a limited time.
Significantly, applications do not only access the information about a given user that has added the application. Applications by default get much of the information about that user’s friends and network members that the user can see. So without any action from a user, an individual that has never joined any applications will have their information sent to the third party application when their friends or associates in their networks join.”

(from article covering FB privacy/ legal concerns in detail, on EPIC -electronic privacy org )

Links, short vids & doco:

  • See this article that gives good brief intro to FB concerns
  • For more details, see this and other articles at EPIC -electronic privacy org

TED talks’ to learn more about surveillance and privacy concerns generally (eye-opening and well worth the time!!):

Why privacy matters
Here’s how we take back the Internet
How the NSA betrayed the world’s trust — time to act
Government surveillance — this is just the beginning
How to avoid surveillance … with the phone in your pocket
The dark secrets of a surveillance state
(And many more if you search ‘privacy’ or ‘internet’ or ‘surveillance’)

Interesting doco:
Terms and conditions may apply” (trailer)

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