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Archive for the ‘Privacy’ Category

Why Millennials Are Blasé About Privacy

Millennials don’t seem to care that Facebook and other companies harvest their data for profit. At least that’s the premise of a recent opinion piece in the New York Post. It suggests that millennials are consigned to the fact that, in order to have the many advantages that the new tech world provides, there has to be a sacrifice.  If you are a millennial, I would be interested in your reaction to this premise and others which follow.

Millennials seem more comfortable with the notion that if a product is free then you are the product, and allow themselves to be an ’’open book”  for all to see. As it will be revealed later, the opinion piece opines that this is not true of previous generations who appear to be more guarded with their privacy. Of course, previous generations had fewer threats to their privacy to go along with markedly less availability to information, entertainment, and communication (just to name a few).

So it is not necessarily fair to single out the millennials as if they were some alien outliers. Although, like aliens, they come from and live in different worlds to their predecessors. I mean, book burning was non-existent before Guttenberg’s printing press printed books, and there wasn’t a need for fallout shelters until the world went nuclear. In fact, you could make a case that the dangerous, crazy world that was passed on to millennials, and that they now inherit, may make the exposure of their personal information to the public seem tame by comparison. Not to mention that heavy engagement with social media and the like is a needed distraction from modern life!

Besides, no one would have guessed some fifteen years ago that Mark Zuckerberg’s dorm room doodle would morph into the behemoth of a business model it is today – replete with its invasive algorithms. Who could have imagined that social media companies could learn our political leanings, our likes and dislikes, our religious affiliations, and our sexual orientations and proclivities?  If I, or some other legal or law enforcement entity want to retrace my activities on a given day – that is easily and readily accessible from my smartphone.

As millennials blithely rollover to the tech gods when it comes to filleting themselves publicly, the article takes them (and others) to task for handwringing and breathlessly expressing surprise and outrage at Cambridge Analytica for just working with the leeway given to them. Of course, if the company had helped Hillary Clinton win the Whitehouse instead of purportedly boosting the prospects of the odious ogre, Trump, there likely wouldn’t have been the same angst – or so the piece posits.

Be that as it may, the question must be asked: what did Cambridge Analytica do that countless other companies haven’t done? I mean, why should it be treated any differently by Facebook because it’s a political firm and not an avaricious advertising scavenger? The other Silicon Valley savants – Google, Apple, and Microsoft – all monetize your information. They are eager to invite advertisers, researchers, and government agencies to discover your treasure trove of personal information through them.

And millennials, as well as those of other generations, are only too willing, it seems, to provide such information- and in massive amounts. Indeed, they seem to relish, in a race to the bottom, who can post the most content, photos, and the like. They seem to be ambivalent about the inevitable fallout. “So what?” they say, “I’ve got nothing to hide.”

The article questions if those of previous generations would be so forthcoming, citing the so-called Greatest Generation eschewing the telephone if it meant that the government could eavesdrop on their conversations with impunity. On the contrary, millennials, it would appear, view the lack of privacy and the co-opting of personal information as the price for the plethora of pleasures that the digital medium supplies.

As Wired magazine founder Kevin Kelly said in his 2016 book, The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future:

If today’s social media has taught us anything about ourselves as a species, it is that the human impulse to share overwhelms the human impulse for privacy.

What do you think? Is it a fair assessment of the current state of affairs?

This article was originally published at BestVPN.com.

Your Internet Privacy Is at Risk, But You Can Salvage It All

In what has to be the most ironical turn of events, companies collectively pay cybersecurity experts billions of dollars every year so that they can keep their business safe and out of prying eyes. Once they have attained the level of security and privacy they want, they turn around to infringe upon the privacy of the people.

This has been the model many of them have been operating for a while now, and they don’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. We would have said the government should fight against this, but not when they have a hand in the mud pie too.

In this piece, we discuss the various ways these organizations have been shredding your privacy to bits, what the future of internet privacy is shaping up to be and how to take back the control of your own data privacy.

How Your Internet Privacy Is Being Violated

A lot of the simple operations you perform with the internet every day means more to some data collectors than you know. In fact, it is what they are using to make decisions on what to offer you, what to hold back from you and so much more.

Going by the available technology, here are some of the frameworks that allow the collection and use of your information.

  • Big data analytics: These are mapped to certain individuals/ demographics and used to predictive models for the future.

When you hear big data, what is being referred to is a large body of data which is meant for later analysis. Via a combination of efforts from man, bot and algorithms, the large amount of data is sifted through with the sole aim of finding patterns, trends, and behaviors.

  • Internet of Things: Thus, you can access live video feeds of your home from anywhere in the world. You can even have your refrigerator tell you what supplies you are running low on.

What you don’t know is that as your IoT units collect this data, they are not just feeding it to you. In fact, they are sending back a lot more than you know to the companies that developed them.
Everyday things (such as your printer, refrigerator, light, AC unit and so much more) can now be connected to an internet connection. This enables them to work with one another with the sole aim of interoperability and remote access.

    • Machine learning: These machines are then released into data sets to practice their newfound freedom. 

Guess what they do? Mine for data from almost any source they can lay hands on, rigorously analyze the data and use that to diverse ends.
Machines were taught to do more than just be machines. Instead of being given a set of commands to run with, they have now been given specialized commands to aid their learning.

The significance of The Data Collections

All of the above might look like normal procedures for the achievement of the intended purposes that these technologies bring. However, they cause more harm than good.

On the one hand, the datasets are used to pigeonhole consumers by companies.

As of the time of this writing, machine learning data is already being used by some credit card companies to determine who they should allow a credit card and who they shouldn’t. It is even more ridiculous to think this decision is based off something as simple as what type of car accessory a customer would opt for.

As if that is not enough, machine learning is approaching a place where it would soon be able to diagnose diseases. That is not the scary part. This diagnosis will be based on social media data.

The companies don’t even need to see you physically before they know what diseases you might have. Talk about prodding into the most sensitive areas of your life that you might not even have shared with family and friends.

That, and we have not even talked about how marketers will chase you around with ads based on what you’ve searched, offer suggested content based on your patterns and prevent you from seeing out of the box across the board.

Putting an End to The Nonsense

You don’t have to put up with all these. Technology is meant to be enjoyed, so you shouldn’t be punished by being exploited.

One helpful tip is to layer all your connection over a VPN. These will help make you anonymous on the network, preventing data collectors and monitors from identifying your computer with your data stream.

Your IoT devices will also benefit from a VPN if you can share one over your router. This helps to make them more secure since they cannot us a VPN otherwise.

Private browser networks such as Tor will do you a lot of good when browsing the web. If you prefer conventional browsers, though, don’t forget to install an ad blocker before you go online again. They help prevent marketers and companies from tracking you all around the web after looking at some content.

Don’t forget to switch from Google to other search engines that leave your data to you. DuckDuckGo and Qwant are some of the options on this list.

Combine all of that, and you have your shot back at decency and privacy on the internet.