What is Privacy in the first place?
The Oxford dictionary defines privacy as a “state in which one is not observed or disturbed by other people”. In simple terms privacy is about being on your own, with your thoughts, feelings, and experiences..
We have the popular argument “I have nothing to hide / I haven’t done anything illegal. Why should I care about privacy ?”. Well, Privacy is a human right like any other right recognized by the UN and other International and Regional treaties. In 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed this right to privacy in Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that:
“No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks”
The fact that you cheated on your grade 12 exams or that you had a threesome in your 20s are things that you might prefer to keep private. Don’t confuse privacy with secrecy. We all know what you do in the bathroom but you still close the door.
I have nothing to hide is not a valid argument. Then why does your Phone/PC have a passcode? Why do you lock your apps(especially chat apps and gallery)? That means you have something that you don’t want everyone to see/access. It has nothing to do with illegal activity but you want your private stuff to be safe.
Still not convinced? What if your chats, photos, and data are in the hands of someone who holds a grudge against you? Would you still say I have nothing to hide and I don’t care about privacy? We don’t want our gossips to go public or our private space being invaded by strangers. The fact is everyone wants privacy but no one bothers following healthy cyber habits.
Data is the new oil and the global IT firms are behind your data. Why do companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon allows you to upload unlimited data to their cloud? Their Business Model is based on your data. Big Data Analytics and other activities are performed on your data and your data is shared with advertising companies to target you or provide better recommendations.
Reagan’s statement, “In God, we trust — all others we verify” is becoming much more prevalent these days. I need privacy, not because my actions are questionable, but because your judgement and intentions are.
The next big question is regarding the promises of Big Brother saying that our data is anonymized. If my data is being anonymized, why should I be worried about my privacy? I find it amusing that they use ANONYMIZED data to PERSONALIZE stuff for you. With enough data points, it’s easy to fully de-anonymize the dataset. And enough doesn’t even mean many.
Let’s assume that the feature vectors entering machine learning construct are not stored and the result is human-incomprehensible. Neural network gets the following feature vectors: exact location(Google pay asks you to turn on your location before making transactions), last amount of money spent(history of your transactions), where it was spent, whose mobile was near your mobile, your user ID, route taken and the app even asks the reason for making the transaction(honestly these apps are getting out of hand). Why do you think a simple app collects all this data? Not all this data is required to carry out the operation. Why do apps(Chrome and Google Play etc.) need access to your body sensors? Why does a calculator need access to your storage and gallery? (for calculating 1+2 using your private pics???) Seems scary? Sorry but that’s the reality.
The rule of thumb is the more attributes in a data set, the more likely a match is to be correct and therefore less likely that data can be protected by “anonymization”. Researchers from two universities in Europe have published a method they say can correctly re-identify 99.98% of individuals in anonymized data sets with just 15 demographic attributes. Even if your data is anonymized, the ML models can easily identify you in a crowd.
Global Mass surveillance is another fundamental threat to human rights. Indiscriminate surveillance of non-suspects is a contravention of rights and a failure of the rule of law. Just check out this VIDEO.
Since the global surveillance disclosures of 2013, initiated by ex-NSA employee Edward Snowden, the inalienable human right to privacy has been a subject of international debate. Government agencies, such as the NSA, CIA, R&AW, and GCHQ, have engaged in mass, global surveillance.
WHAT CAN BE DONE TO SAVE YOUR PRIVACY?
- Use Firefox instead of Chrome
- Use Duckduckgo or Startpage instead of Google
- Try not to install 3rd party apps unless you trust them
- Keep Alexa and Google Home outside of your private space
Follow Healthy Cyber Habits(A few are mentioned below):
- Don’t put personally-identifying information in your search terms
- Don’t log in to your search engine or related tools
- Block cookies from your search engine
- Use Privacy Badger Add on
- Don’t give unnecessary permissions to apps
- Keep your front cams hidden unless it is required
- Don’t click on suspicious links
Your data, your responsibility. Privacy is not a hobby but a lifestyle!