We’ve been working in the IT and cyber security sector for over 20 years and we have constantly thought of our own personal data and privacy whenever anything new and shiny in tech comes along. For today’s post we are going to focus on what we feel everyday considerations of privacy should be for our readers of NorthWalesSocial – with the most common device we all have – our mobile or tablet.
We often ask the following questions before we think about downloading something. “Before I use this, where is my data being stored, what data protection and laws are in place actively protecting my information – and am I comfortable sharing this?”
We are well aware that whenever we post something, download an app or share a comment on social – there are significantly different levels of data privacy being managed or handled. Not all mobile apps or platforms are created equal. The TikTok application and Huawei technologies are actively being banned in the US simply because they are Chinese owned. Just what does this mean and what does this imply when we think about it?
Sometimes we meet people who might say – ‘What does it all really matter? Google knows everything about you, Facebook has all your personal data of who you know, where you’ve been, what relationships you are in and even where you are right now.’
We would counter this argument by asking if you choose to close your curtains of an evening – almost all of us would say yes, of course we do – because we want to feel safe and not spied on by strangers. So why is then do we not seem to take the same due diligence and care with our digital lives and footprints?
Being human, means we don’t perceive the risk if we can’t clearly see it. If my phone is switched off or in another room, how can it be possibly breaching my privacy? Or is it really listening to what I am saying to my family in private? We wouldn’t really know if we haven’t taken active steps in protecting our privacy.
A key part of the reason that we don’t fear these systems are the lengthy legal terms and conditions forms we were confronted with long ago when we first signed up to something. They are invariably long and boring, and nobody if they are completely honest has ever downloaded all the terms and reviewed them in detail before accepting. This means we have no idea of what is really contained in these terms, or how the ‘algos’ work in the background. We don’t really have any idea on how our data is being captured and processed from our devices suggesting which adverts should pop up on different websites when we visit them.
Things are slightly different to when it comes to cookies on websites – the trade stated has to be clear. Accept the cookies and we will tailor the experience. Don’t and you will miss out on some of the content. Decline the cookies and get a reduced experience. That’s pretty clear. Big tech systems are different.
But aren’t we are protected with things like GDPR? Surely privacy protection is in there somewhere? Unfortunately the government regulators have got to this party way too late. It makes sense to think that big laws only ever come into being after the problem has manifested itself for some time. They always come into affect after an event, not before. So what happened to all your private information before 2018 when GDPR only then came into force?
So privacy really does matter – and may well be one of the highest prized assets in the future when people might want to disconnect, become unplugged, stay offline and just be themselves when it suits them – away on holiday for example.
So if you care about your own privacy you can start to take back control of your digital self and digital data footprint. One step at a time. The easiest way to start to detox your digital self and take back control of your privacy starting off with your phone is as follows;
- Remove those applications you don’t use anymore on your phone – which might be sending data back and forth in the background. What value are you getting in keeping these installed – none.
- Check your settings and permissions granted for any downloaded app. If it’s a fitness app – does it really need access to your photos and contacts? Why?
- Location data. We know this uses battery power so tend to use only when needed but do you really need to leave it switched on all the time? Which apps are requesting it? You can decline these.
- Overcome your resistance to change. There are countless alternatives to the usual suspects. You don’t have to use an app because you think that’s all everyone else only uses – you’d be surprised just how many people are waking up to these big tech privacy issues and what they can do about it.
- We like to shop local and support our local businesses here on North Wales Social. Take the same philosophy and approach to your digital services. There are many other free to use applications out there, developed by independent vendors who are smaller and see privacy as a growing concern, and are not multi-billion businesses relying on advertising revenue to keep growing bigger and bigger. Support the little guys.
- Actively try not to overshare. Do you need to give out personal data to enter competitions, sign up for discounts, tell people where you’re eating for lunch or checking in etc.?
- Remember if something is free to use – the commodity being traded is your personal data. Actively choose who you intend to share this with.
If these matters strike a chord with you and you want to discuss what else we can do for businesses and organisations here in North Wales to help them protect their data, their systems, their privacy, their brand and therefore their business – simply get in touch with us.