Why would I be worried if I am not doing anything wrong?
This is a very common question whenever you raise concerns about privacy. My default response is asking if you’ll be comfortable having a camera + mic in your living room let along with bedroom or even toilet.
I am NOT paranoid when it comes to surveillance, neither should you be concerned about being a lonely voice demanding & questioning it. Times are gone when only important people had to be cautious of surveillance. We’ve seen spy movies where detectives follow them around, noting their movements and then reporting it to their bosses.
Technology has made it efficient and we’ve far more footprints all over the place then in the past. Pretty much every website has a monitor that tracks your behavior and optimizes themselves for you to buy into the problem they’re trying to sell.
Let’s go back 100 years ago, how many records would your tailor have or the store you go for grocery shopping. How many people would they’ve interacted with which involved sharing of personal information?
The only concern we’ve nowadays is while giving away our personal information such as telephone numbers or Email is SPAM. You never thought that you’re giving up information that can be used against you.
We’ve more Identities linked to our telephone number than the social network. Think about it, a personal corporation has far more data on you than the government itself, and that organization is only meant to maximize their profit and serve its stakeholders. Rest assured, you don’t count as a stakeholder. You’re just a product for them, who serve their purpose as they want.
Once they collect your data, they put it out for the bid. The highest bidder takes the virgin data to maximize their returns & exploit you when you’re most vulnerable. You’re looking for something & kinda desperate, so they prey on your thirst to answer with information that serves themselves.
Regardless of the outcome of the attack, you are now sold to the second higher bidder who does the same & then it’s repeated till you’re thrown away.
There comes another cycle where a company who bought your data for the first time can’t prey on you anymore, they’ll combine their own research & then resell you. The second company (who plays another vital role) will begin another set of data that’s being formed to prepare you as a better product for a different set of buyers.
Perception is very critical. Why? Since you may not be terrified of getting killed in a road accident, even being involved in one but a single airplane crash, you might deliberately put off your air travel plans for a month or so, though it is the safest mode of travel.
Similarly, privacy isn’t taken seriously & mostly you’re looked down upon when you raise concerns. It’s like a taboo to talk about privacy, though being cool, if you take it seriously & practice or preach it, you’re out of the cool club and into a club that is sometimes considered paranoid or even narcissist or anti-government.
With the emergence of Covid19, we’ve all kinds of tracking apps being installed and all praises for the organizations that are able to limit a patient’s ability to move, but in the long term, I am seriously concerned about repercussions.
Does an institute, either private or government, have the right to limit an individual’s movement based on a decision that they have a vested interest in?
Google/Facebook are household names & they control us directly or indirectly. With their current alliance in tracking our movement is ignored or in few cases appreciated by many, but if they’re given the access, how far can they go?
90% of the people said that they don’t read T&S before signing for any service. Remaining 10% lied. Between those 10 pages, there is a clause I am just attaching samples from a major telecommunication company where they explicitly mention how they’re tracking you.
For the folks, who are lazy to read them, it means they monitor everything you do, from calls to websites to location.
These companies have employees who’re given this access without proper protocols which are often then dumped on the dark web( AKA illegal internet) for cybercriminals to decimate & exploit it as they please.
We live in a very civil world & before you crucify me for saying that, go back a few hundred years ago & see how barbaric the regimes were. We’re protected and our justice system has improved a lot. So the question takes another form, i.e. why isn’t the government doing anything about it & why is this not a major issue?
Like okay, google knows that I want to buy a new car so they can help me in making my decision, but they can’t sell me a car unless I want to. I am sure there are gov agencies keeping a leash on these predators as they do for other crimes.
So the answer is yes, there are & frankly, the government is doing a very good job where they can but the system is very complicated. We live in a fairly decent democracy which doesn’t allow you to change laws on the fly.
While an average American is struggling to pay off his debts, these corporations have an army of lawyers & lobbyists to find gray zones to operate without getting in trouble. There are many cases where you hear about the fines, but as massive they look, it’s just a slap on the wrist which goes directly to the enforcing agency rather than the people who were impacted.
A lot of private organizations have more power than countries. I am sure FB, Google have more liquid cash, let alone (illiquid) assets, than the majority of the countries in the world. You can’t do business if google bans you.
Paypal, eBay Amazon can literally throw you out of your platform without disclosing a reason & you’ll be done. You can’t take out a loan without providing every information to a 3rd party credit agency which can have very low standards of security. At that point, it’s not a matter of choice or luxury. You’re compromising on your basic human rights if you don’t give in to these 3rd parties.
At this point, you’re for sale & it isn’t much you can do about it. It’s kind of normal for you. Anyone can go online and find information on you that you may even remember or able to connect. Your information can be fed into a database where different types of algos are run to find your weakest point and then exploit it.
Surveillance compresses creativity and performances. Think about it, if you’re studying or working on your computer or anything. Would you perform well if you know that no one is watching or if there‘s a camera on you?
Fear is incited within yourself that leads to depreciation in our coherent thinking ability. In communities where strict enforcement of surveillance is imposed, innovation rests in peace.
You can’t think beyond survival if you’re in constant fear that someone is watching you. Now we may & we should trust our governments, however, there are limitations to which we draw the line.
For instance, if you put a soldier with every person, we may be able to reduce the crimes but that’s what dictators do. They turn ordinary citizens into spies where an individual is afraid to trust anyone because you don’t know who’s reporting to whom.
With the increase of our dependency on digital tools, it’s getting much simpler to collect, share & work around our mindsets. One of the misused terms is metadata which aspires to the confidence of anonymity but a false sense of security is worse than no security. This term is abused critically by pretty much everyone.
“Data is the new oil” is a common term & it points to the fact that oil gives you power. If there isn’t any oil, the world will stop moving. Similarly, we’ve companies that are necessary for us to have a quality life but we’ve no option to opt-out of their surveillance.
They explicitly mention selling you out but you don’t have an option to opt-out, because their business models would stop working since it does include selling you. You’re the product.
You must have noticed the word “cookies” while browsing websites. Think of it as a tracking device in your shoes that transmits your every move & then auction it to the highest bidder. Bidders can predict your behavior and set up a trap in the way they want.
Election manipulation has been in the news lately so the way they do is very simple. Imagine you care a lot about a specific cause, let’s take an example of gun control that you absolutely want to be banned.
Now if you’re going to vote for Candidate A, Candidate B can get your data & then wherever you go, chase you with ads of candidate A statements against Gun Control. They can also show you how they care about Gun Control & that’s on top of their list.
This way opinions can be formed & elections can be rigged because everything else is filtered & you’re fed with the information that serves their agenda the best. Every one of us is vulnerable and if that vulnerability is exposed to everyone, that’s dangerous and this is exactly the risk right now.
Now the question comes that should we get rid of everything digital & reduce our footprints & may be living in caves. No that’s not the point. Frankly, it’s not possible regardless of whatever you do. You can reduce it, but then it depends on what’s an acceptable limit. Would you not keep a phone at all, would you not use any social media or would you not keep a credit card?
Maybe living off-grid is an option for many but it doesn’t work for me or probably 99% of you. From hotel booking to renting a car or booking flight etc, you need a credit card. Privacy & isn’t binary. There isn’t a utopia out there for either of these but we can try out best. There are some trade-offs that you can do to achieve the quality of living without compromising your lifestyle.
While big companies may look like an easy target to blame, issues are much bigger than that and are difficult to be solved by a single entity so our best option is to make some modifications to our lifestyle.
It does require some research which may cause inconvenience in the beginning but ultimately it pays off. Luckily, we’ve great alternatives to pretty much a lot of things that we can do.
Here are the alternatives
You can also use add-ons in your current browser to turn on cookie tracking
- VPN – NordVPN
- Cellphone: Efani.com
- Messenger: Signal
I run EFANI.com but the only reason it exists is that I decided not to be a product so if there’s a better product out there, please comment down below so I could learn about it & add it to the (aforementioned) list