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Using the internet and its different applications: How far is our privacy protected?

Using the internet and its different applications: How far is our privacy protected?

Using the internet can bring us much satisfaction. However, it can cause some surprises as well, when we realize how far information technology has developed. The greatest threat lies in our private life being exposed to the large public. We have various examples of personal data being violated and bank accounts tampered or private life rendered public.

It is easy to store digital information, but it is also very easy to leak. Companies need to make a decision about what they really need to keep as secret so far. Data violation is happening in too many places around the world daily. However, we need to know what constitutes such a huge breach of information, how much threat and harm it can cause to account holders, companies, users or insurers.

These examples can make us think deeper into the matter:

One of the dominant Internet giant Yahoo who was in negotiation to sell itself to Verizon proclaimed that it became the victim of the biggest data breach in history in September 2016.  The attack compromised the email addresses, date of birth, telephone numbers and real names of 500 million users.  Another example is Equifax the largest credit bureau in US reveals on September 2017 that due to application vulnerability on their websites had led to a data breach which had exposed about 147.9 million consumers. The consequences were that the consumer’s personal information (including, date of birth, addresses, and social security numbers and in some cases driver’s license numbers) of 143 million consumers were leaked: 209,000 consumers also had their credit card data exposed.

Facebook: The Cambridge Analytica controversy

For more than a decade most of us have been on Facebook. However all good things do come to an end. During the past 18 months, Facebook has been going downward. In the meantime, Facebook has experienced the loss of $60 billion in value. This is due to the fact that the public trust has been eroded on Facebook. This is because Facebook had known about the data leak earlier, some two years ago, but it did not do the needful to inform its users. Because according to Facebook the violation of data was not a “breach” of Facebook security protocol. Facebook has been at the center of a chaotic debate about Cambridge Analytica and how it made inappropriate use of Facebook data. Facebook has recently went under an intense inquiry after the news came out that Cambridge Analytica, a data firm which was in connection to President Donald Trump’s campaign, might have had leak information on millions of Facebook users without their consent

Facebook has reached out the whistleblower, Christopher Wylie, and Aleksandr Kogan, the Cambridge University professor who had built up an application which collected data and then sold them to Cambridge Analytica. Hence, Facebook has suspended Cambridge Analytica from its platform because the company had developed an application called “thisisyourdigitallife” whilst many people were thinking that they were downloading a fairly harmless personality quiz app, Cambridge Analytica was using Facebook’s API to gather their personal data about the users of this app,as well as the friends of the users.

Apple and Microsoft have apparently incredibly diverse forms of business which direct their users to believe that each one of them is more privacy conscious than the other. Moreover these companies have an online storefront for their products, a cloud storage service, a desktop, a smartphone operating system, and a personal assistant.

Companies like Apple are selling hardware, while making their software more attractive so that consumers get to purchase their products. Furthermore Apple creates development tools and apps stores so that developers can create apps that draw the customer’s attentions. While on the other hand, companies like Microsoft are more concerned in authorizing manufacturers such as HP, Dell and Lenovo to have access to their operation system. Additionally, Microsoft does create its own hardware all the way through the Surface line of 2-in-1’s, laptops and desktop and also used to make the Lumia line of smartphones.

However, these lines are references for other manufacturers. Microsoft also makes money on office, this is the reason why the office suite is accessible on Android, iOS and MacOS in addition to Windows. Even if these companies have diverse forms of operating business, they gather almost the identical information and make use of them in the similar way. Each of these companies collects personal information such as email addresses, credit card numbers, names, dates of birth and telephone numbers to make use in their storefronts.

Our location is tracked via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth devices

Furthermore, these companies also assemble accurate location information by making use of our phone’s GPS, by triangulating our location with cellular towers, or the location of any Wi-Fi or Bluetooth devices that we are connected to. Both Microsoft and Apple companies outright that they distribute our personal information and data with other companies without explicitly asking permission from their customers. Customer’s personal data refer to our email address, credit card numbers, names, demographic data, location history, our contacts, messages, calls and many more. Both Microsoft and Apple handle and share our data without informing us specifically. However Microsoft does name its partners with whom it shares the data with, for example (Newegg Yahoo and more). While on the other hand Apple does not list its partners with whom it shares its data.

One wrong click on the web could carry us away to somewhere else on the web. We might therefore find ourselves on websites which will ask about personal data, including addresses, or even our personal likes and dislikes, date of birth, contact number and more. This is all because of the most recent version of windows which always keeps on asking information while pretending to be helpful. We might jump to the conclusion that Microsoft is the only one responsible for the collective attack on our digital privacy. But that might not be the case. 

Actually in reality, there are some other companies who completely feel entitled to require us to reveal to them our personal information before they open their doors to us. While Microsoft gives details of what it does with our private data to alleviate our fears, the Bloomberg entity through Facebook’s  sketched “unblock able” ads, whereas  Google agenda disclosed that advertisers can now tune ads to who we are by just knowing our email address.

Hence, this is the price of free: free operating system, free email, free search, free connecting with friends and free communication. Microsoft has put itself down the ground, and is now presenting apologies. However, on the other hand, other companies are doing as much or even more from exacting our private data. Let’s us have a look.

Facebook collects our content…

Facebook trackers are present almost everywhere on the internet. However because most of the 1.49 billion Facebookers have access through an app daily, the ads cannot be hidden by using the blocker tools. Facebook now represents its own self-contained network. For example, you want to share a family picture, baby picture or simply just ping a friend up after work or checking in, in a town or country through your mobile phone via your Facebook account or just liking a page, all this illustrate that we are sharing our private information with Facebook. Hence, in this way, through these connections, Facebook get access to our private information and thus exploit it for its own benefits.

Facebook is now lining up a program through which advertisers can market their products through TV and Facebook.  Facebook is merging up with advertisers and this allows trailer for the latest movies James Bond, for example, to run at halftime of a “Monday Night Football” or on the news feed of the Facebook users who have liked a previous James Bond page. Moreover, in this way the advertiser will gain more power to poll us about what we thought of them.

Now what does Facebook collect as information? It is not a secret that there is a diminutive privacy in the policy of Facebook privacy.  Here is a snippet:  Facebook collects our content and other information which we provide when we are using its services, including when we sign up for an account, create or share a thing on our Facebook account and message or communicate with others. Moreover, this includes information about the content we provide such as the location of a picture, check-in or the date of a file which was created. Facebook also gathers information about how we use its service, such as types of content we view or engage with the frequency and duration of our activities.  Facebook knows our friends, what information we provide about them, what other sites we visit, what we purchased and what device we used to access to Facebook and much more. Moreover, it is to be noted that when we delete our Facebook account, Facebook reserves the right to keep the information that others have shared about us. This is because according to Facebook policy, that information is not ours.

Google can also track our movements

While, on the other hand, Google has become the de facto in search. Google is working to insert itself more into our daily transactions, and location data is critical to that. Google collects data from our (name, email address, telephone number, credit card), from our search history, our gmail, our voice search, our use of YouTube, Chrome, and information from Google+ and Android. Google can also track our movements via our phone. From 2012 it combined about 70 privacy policies so that it could analyze the aggregate data. 48 Google’s Android operating system was used by eight of the ten smart phones sold internationally in 2014, and is now being integrated to smart homes and cars, according to Google’s

Just as Facebook, Google also stores information of our browser via local browser storage commonly referred as cookies. This giant tech also makes use of what is known as « implicit location information », it is when Google interprets a search for a specific location. Google has managed to assemble user locations in a more sneaky ways. It collects the physical address of nearby cell towers where Android user’s phones are in communication for daily call, text and app usage. Google collects data from various cell towers and thus this helps Google to triangulate a user’s cell signal, and then it determine an approximate location.

Apple decided to differentiate itself from Google

Several years ago, Apple decided to differentiate itself from Google as Google extract all private information about its users to achieve advertising among its other purposes. No business respects anything unless it is in their financial interest to do so. Apple has decided to limit the access for many parts of its user’s information. It converts the synchronisation of the calendar entries, the contacts and other information across its iCloud, however with exception of keychain entries, other information is stored in a way which enables Apple to have access and provide access to law enforcement. Today with the innovation of new technologies, we tend to bury our head into it. Hence, this cause the relationship between tech companies and customer becomes uneasy. Apple user’s trusted Apple for facilitating their life, while producing products that are worth showing off. However, the modern digital world makes it quite difficult to trust any tech brand. Today tech companies completely feel free to do whatever it takes to keep their user’s do whatever they are doing just to keep on making money.  While iPhone X introduced its Face ID features, it insisted that user’s facial features should stay on their phone and not to be shared. However later it appeared the developers of that application was given access to facial data. Hence, this has lead users to be doubtful when it comes to tech companies because their private information is no more a secret. However, people will still buy Apple’s products because they think they look cool hence in this way they are somehow stuck in the ecosystem. Today apple is just the good looking guy but it is no longer the good guy.

Collecting the personal data of its users

Apple and Google are well known for collecting the personal data of its users, however with the arrival of window 10, today Microsoft has officially joined the race. Windows 10 allows itself the right to pass loads users private data to Microsoft’s users for its own purpose. With some public pressure, Microsoft is likely to specify how and why it will share your data. Microsoft’s privacy statement has been updated lately and it explains the nature of collecting personal information from users computers when running window 10 include payment data, data about user’s interests and contact information. However Microsoft has disclosed that it preserved the private data , including the content (such as the content of users emails, other private communications or files in private folders) as they believed that while doing so they protect their customers and enforce governing the use of the services- said Microsoft in its recent update of new terms of services agreement.

While on the other hand we may think that chats sent from Facebook messenger are totally private, however we might be wrong. On 5th April Facebook ratified that it does make use of an automated tools to scan our messenger chats malware links and child porn images. This automated system allows the company moderator’s to review any messages that are flagged by the users. While on the other hand, we users, we have always assumed that our chats on Facebook messenger were private.

Facebook has brought changes to its data policy regarding having access to users data and transparency. It stated that it gathers “the content, messages, and the communication we provide while communication with others”. In the coming week Mark Zuckerberg is expected to face interrogations from two US congressional panels about how his company handles the user’s private data. This hearing will be a vital opportunity to shed light on the user’s data privacy subject and help all the Facebook user’s to better understand what really happens to their private information online.

Tech companies like Apple, Microsoft, Google and Facebook are dipping into the data streams of our lives in an innovative ways, to track our online daily movements just to know what we do, where we go online and who we know. This technique and the purpose of collecting data is keeping on expanding with no end. Today these companies combine trade and make use of our personal information at a unique level. While having access to our private information this allow them to access our data characteristics, behaviors and lives of billions hence in this way these tech companies constantly monitor, follow, track, sort, rate, judge and rank people. While surfing on the internet we are unaware of the fixed hidden pieces of software that transmit information about the websites we have visited, navigation patterns, scrolls and our mouse movements. In the same way while carrying a smartphone rich information about our daily life not only flows to Google Apple or a variety of applications providers, but also to a number of significant third party companies and again this is based on a hidden software fixed by app providers.

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