The Real Threat to Your Privacy is You
Privacy concerns are a hot topic right now, especially in Europe, with the EU’s GDPR legislation about to come into full effect this May, and companies are scrambling to make their services, databases and other systems GDPR compliant.
The penalties for violating said legislation are hefty, with a maximum penalty set at 4% of annual worldwide revenue. Might sound like a small penalty for a business that turns over 10 000€ per year, but for a company like Google that sanction would come with a price tag of €4.386bn, or thereabouts. (Statista, 2018) Not such a small sanction anymore.
And that’s good in my opinion, because the hefty sanctions force companies to protect customer data better, and more importantly, GDPR requires them to inform their customers of any data breaches. Before, if a company was hacked and your credit card information was stolen, they were not under any obligation to tell you, and that seems very scary. Luckily, that’s about to change now, for the better, hopefully.
But what will not change is the fact that the biggest threat to your privacy is not a company or a government. It’s YOU.
Sure, the NSA taps phone calls, agreeing to let an app collect “anonymous data” is a joke and the Supreme Court is suing Microsoft for data they have stored in Ireland (next on the hot topic list: cloud borders). In the end, however, it is not the NSA or the companies that are the single biggest threat to your privacy, it’s you yourself.
Let me explain that a little further. In his book, David Houle nicely covers all the possible ways you can be spied on by the government, big corporations and nosey hackers and individuals. All in all, it’s the perfect read to go with your tinfoil hat and a cup of tea, but it made me want to talk more about the personal choices we make everyday that disclose more private information to the world than many of us even realise.
The easiest way to understand how much of your privacy you’re giving up, is to pretty much answer three questions, and if you answer all with a yes, you may just be the outlier of my theory, meaning you may not be the biggest threat to your privacy.
But I bet you’ll answer no at least twice.
Question 1: Do you always turn off location on your phone when you don’t need it (navigation etc. counts as a need)?
Keeping location services on allows for at least Google or Apple to track you depending on which manufacturer’s device you use (if you own a Windows phone then I suggest you get a real phone), but most likely it enables a plethora of different app makers to track you as well.
Question 2: Have you installed antivirus on your phone?
It’s easy, free or at least cheap, and takes about 60 seconds. Still many people don’t have it installed. Why? One might think “oh my phone doesn’t need antivirus software” or they think it decreases battery life (granted it does, but is that really a tradeoff you’re not ready to make?).
Question 3: Have you checked and managed the permissions you have given to your apps when installing and using them?
This one is the most important one to me, because I don’t like the idea that Facebook would have the permission to use my phone’s microphone without telling me. Do you? Of course not, but most of us don’t set strict enough permissions to apps, or even leave them to do whatever the app wants.
And why do most of us answer no to these questions? Convenience and ignorance.
The ignorance part is easy, people don’t bother to do things that would help their privacy or they might not even think to learn about them. Granted, some may not even know of the threats, but in my book that goes to show their ignorance.
The convenience bit is more tricky, since it’s based on the judgement and choices of each individual.
Personally I don’t mind that Google has a scary amount of data on me and my behaviour, because that data allows Google to recommend me all those great pubs when I visit London, or helps me navigate to a destination faster.
We’re all trading parts of our privacy away in exchange for convenience, much like one would exchange money at a restaurant for a meal they didn’t need to cook.
Therefore, the question that arises from all this is, are you willing to give up your comfortable and convenient life for improvement in your personal privacy?
Oh, and also, if you post on social media, that also counts as reducing your own privacy. Food for thought.
https://www.statista.com/statistics/266206/googles-annual-global-revenue/ accessed 18.2.2018