I know from conversations I’ve had with a lot of folks that online privacy isn’t a big concern for many. The classic response is “Well, I have nothing to hide.” Well, neither do I, but that’s not the point! If you have nothing to hide, then why should you care so much about online privacy? The answer will get you thinking!
Most of Us Aren’t Committing Serious Crimes Online
Most of us don’t do anything online that would give us something to hide. I assume most folks are just paying bills, checking out their social media, and watching some YouTube most of the time? I know I spend a lot of time online researching privacy, checking my crypto wallets, and looking into ways to improve this site. Regardless, the vast majority of us aren’t on here doing anything that warrants being super sneaky.
Now, there are folks out there organizing violent protests and riots via Twitter and Facebook. There are others committing any of a vast array of cyber crimes. THESE people all have something to hide, but these are the folks that need to take a lot more drastic steps than what I would ever outline on this site!
Your Data is Used to Manipulate You
The data collected on you is being used to manipulate you. That’s not a theory, its fact! There is hard evidence from the past several years that show big-tech companies using data they collected on you to manipulate your mood, editorialize search results to manipulate how you feel about politically divisive topics, and constantly adjust their rules to make sure you only see what they want you to see.
This kind of manipulation is harmful on so many levels. Manipulated search results lead to disinformation. Manipulated feelings can have you acting in ways that are not normal or making purchases you’ll regret later. Manipulating the rules to control what you see can give you strong, misguided opinions and even end up being harmful to democracy. I don’t know about you, but I’d prefer to be presented with anything and everything someone wants to post online and make my own decisions about how to feel about this or whether to believe that. Better yet, I’d prefer it if billion dollar tech companies with no heart or soul would stop trying to use what they know about me to influence or control me in any way!
Data Collection is a Huge Security Risk
You might think, “So what if Facebook knows I bank with Chase.” Similarly, you might think, “Well I don’t care if Google has learned that I go to the shooting range once a week because I used Google Maps to navigate there.” I mean, on the surface, those don’t sound like things we really ought to care too much about. The thing is, all data is being sent over the internet to servers owned by these companies. Then, this data gets stored on these servers. While most companies, especially very large tech companies, take many exhaustive steps to ensure the safety of your data, nothing is full proof. Google has been hacked before. Facebook has been hacked before. We trust a lot of tech companies and assume they are secure. The truth is EVERY tech company that has been around for any significant amount of time has been hacked before. It might happen less with larger companies, but it still happens. Also, remember that manipulation we were talking about earlier? Well, the huge tech companies can use their influence and power to bury any stories about their own shortcomings; making sure you still trust them.
Ok, so why should we care if this data is hacked, stolen, etc? The nature of the data on these sites seems pretty harmless most of the time. For example, who cares if a stranger knows where you bank? Well, the most common, malicious use of this kind of information is phishing. Now some internet rando knows where you bank so they can send you carefully crafted emails impersonating your banking site. Suddenly, you receive an email that looks official stating that something bad has happened to your account, so you quickly click the link. The link takes you to a page that looks official enough and you’re in a bit of a panicked rush so you enter your banking website login without thinking too much about it. BAM! The bad guys have your banking credentials. Now they can take your money, open up credit cards in your name, and even lock you out of your own account, leaving with a terrible mess to clean up. Don’t assume that the data being collected is innocent! Criminal masterminds can use the most seemingly harmless bit of data to wreak havoc on your life!
Your Data is Sold to Anyone Willing to Pay For It
Ok, so you now know that your favorite big tech company has had security issues, but you still mostly trust them with your data. That’s somewhat common, I suppose. Some random company with your data? How about your government? How about any person or entity with deep enough pockets that might use your data for any of a wide variety diabolical activities? When you use a tech product that collects massive amounts of your data, there’s a good chance they also sell you data and they don’t care who is buying. You may think you’re just a consumer, but you’re a product! Maybe you weren’t too concerned about what big-tech companies do with your data or how securely and carefully they handle it, but you also have to be concerned about how every entity that buys your data handles it as well. This greatly complicates things!
Just a couple of days before the time of this writing, it was reported that the US Defence Intelligence Agency has been buying data to basically circumvent them needing warrants to spy on us. Why go through the process of obtaining a warrant when you can just pay for the data? You might feel like you trust your government now. You might not care what they know about you. It is not guaranteed that you will always feel this way, and you cannot assume you will always agree with how they might use this data against you!
Terms of Service Have You Giving Insane Usage Rights Away
You know that super cute photo of your new granddaughter you posted on Facebook? According to their terms of service, they have the right to use it for anything they want without your permission, and they don’t owe you anything for it! The same goes for your tweets and photos posted to Twitter. In fact, the “terms of service” of most websites and applications are often written to be too difficult and lengthy for us to read, and sometimes it is to give the company presenting them unreasonable privileges to our data.
Treat Your Privacy Online More Seriously
I pointed at a lot of social networking companies in this article because I figured they are common enough to be relevant and familiar to most people who will read this. The fact is that most companies now collect your data while you are on their site (and some even when you are on other sites). These companies want you to be comfortable with this practice and even want you to be conditioned to criticise those who question their intentions. Just remember, companies are cold, soulless entities that exist to make money. Your data is a valuable asset these days, and none of these companies care about you. YOU ARE THE PRODUCT! With so much of your data being collected coupled with flaws in security and the fact that data is sold to so many other parties, you should absolutely be concerned about your privacy online! Quit listening to the uninformed and the companies looking to profit off of your data and start taking more steps to help secure your online privacy today!
Keep checking back for me ways to put a tinfoil hat on your digital self!