Imagine a world where everything you say is recorded, everything you do is watched, every picture you take is being saved, every webpage you ever visited is noted. With no intentions of agitating conspiracy theorists, we just want to raise the question of whether if our private data online really private?
While each and every website, app or service comes with some version of Terms and Policies page, but how many of us really read it? In any case a general perception is that our personal information and data will remain private, unless otherwise explicitly stated or chosen by us to be made public. A number of revelations in the last couple of years, be it WikiLeaks case or Jennifer Lawrence’s nudes leaking out from her iCloud, prove that one does have to be skeptical .
Law-Suit Against the Law Maker
Earlier this month, Wikimedia the parent company of Wikipedia and other ‘Wiki’ sites sued the NSA (National Security Agency) and DOJ (Department Of Justice) over mass surveillance of the American citizen. The case is based on a CIA operative’s Edward Snowden’s leaked documents which proved how every text conversation and viewed webpages of a regular citizen are taken in account by the Government agencies.
In 2013, Snowden leaked out documents proving mass surveillance by security agencies in USA. He released a document which depicted the FISC (Foreign information Surveillance court) demanding American telco Verizon Communications to provide them with ‘day to day’ data on Verizon’s customer activities. This led to the speculation that, let alone your texts and web searches, even ‘your telephone conversations are under scanner’.
This is not only the case with US based NSA, other countries like India, Russia, China etc., have their own versions of security agencies to use intelligence to prevent acts of terror. The debate may never be decisive as the requirement of information is essential for preventing any future disasters owing to the increasing terrorist and anti-social activity around the world, but the citizens should have a right to knowledge and choice about how all they are being monitored.
Sharing, not Such a Healthy Habit Anymore?
Due to the rising concerns over privacy, ephemeral apps like Snapchat came up. But it turned out that even they are not that safe as they claim, because of a third party accompanying app with Snapchat, 200,000 user photos were leaked on the web in October 2014.
With 1.35 billion users worldwide, Facebook has become a social space where one can share pictures, opinions, Life events, places with the people they want to.
Sharing on Facebook is totally deliberate and voluntary but the purpose still remains to share with your keen, but maybe Facebook doesn’t totally agree. Mark Zuckerberg, Founder and CEO Facebook when asked about privacy on social media in 2010 said, ‘The age of privacy is over’. Not a great news when a website where you literally publish a version of yourself, dodges the question of privacy with a rather tricky statement.
Are the Tech Biggies Doing Something About it?
Almost every week in the news lately we read about cyber security companies getting funded, some even getting acquired. Some of the biggest companies in technology talk about enhancing their security systems, but how effective are these movements.
In recent past, the likes of Google, Yahoo and Linkedin have been sued for spying on user’s emails and profile, so as to put relevant advertisement on their web searches. While most claim that it was all algorithms scanning through the mail boxes, it still doesn’t justify the violation of user privacy without consent. Apple too was involved in one of the biggest controversies of the 21st century, where nude images of around 200 Hollywood celebrities were leaked through a massive iCloud hack.
The more you know about it, the more paranoid you become. This may be one of the very few issues where ignorance is actually a bliss. However, let’s not get carried away in this paranoia of being monitored, all is not lost yet, the services and benefits of the modern world far outweigh the cons. The devices and services have enlightened us with communication and applications which were unimaginable by the generations before us. With the upcoming technologies in privacy and security, one can look forward to a more transparent future.