Security != Privacy

Ever wonder if your phone is listening to you? In this day in age, most people would probably assume that Google, Facebook, Apple and others are somehow monitoring your every move. You can actually see the metrics that Google gathers in your account profile if you really want. I checked mine and was pretty surprised how far back it went, especially my location tracking. Years of vacations, going to shops, and hanging out with friends are all represented with their individual dots on a large map. It is sort of creepy but I have accepted that the idea of privacy online is pretty much dead at this point.

In terms of security, there are plenty of options out there that will keep your machine clear of attacks and malicious intent, however, these things come at a cost. Being secure online does not mean that you will maintain a high level of privacy. Security is basically protecting your privacy, whereas privacy is your own person information.

The price we pay for secure services is our information.

We can pretend that companies do not collect and rent out information to other third parties to improve targeted ads that encourage people to purchase goods and services by way of online ads, or we can acknowledge that it happens all the time. The Internet is not real, in the sense that you as a person have a physical representation of yourself online. Instead, you are represented by your internet clicks, browsing history, and browsing habits. Essentially, we are all just data, and provide a very large amount of it daily, hourly, constantly.

With all this data freely flowing around the cesspool that is the internet, companies would be foolish and stupid to not do something with it. Advertising is the medium in which this data can be used the easiest and most efficiently. The price we pay for secure services is our information. That is not a bad thing, however I wish there were better ways to decide who sees what information.

As it currently stands, any user can opt out of browser information gathering for advertisers, and turn off cookies, which sort of keep tabs on how a use interacts with a website. The process is convoluted and not very user-friendly, almost as if Google does not want users disrupting the data flow they have already established. Outside of that, options are pretty slim. There is no real easy way to browse anonymously without incorporating a VPN and some sort of onion routing. Even then, no method is 100% airtight. There needs to be changes made soon if Google or Microsoft want to avoid a logistical nightmare concerning their users’ privacy.

I propose that these companies clearly label what data they collect and give users the options to continue giving it out. As motivation for users to continue giving data, the company could have accounts that allow more data to be collected to have a sort of badge, or maybe even slight monetary benefits that can be used in-store.

The bottom line is that we need to let users become more aware of what data they are sharing and decide how they want others to access that data. We must take action soon if we do not want to lose what is important to us: our information.