Please note: You can read the first article here.
Following up on our summer article as promised, let’s get back to your secrets and your currently politically designated and government-legislated ‘private information.’ What everyone has to be aware of, and what is critically important to remember as this topic of concern continues to rapidly change, is…
You are in this on your own!
The government cannot protect you and, since no one else is all that interested, you must either protect yourself or suffer the consequences. So where does one start?
Simply put, a lot of the current privacy maelstrom requires a generational change (being as adaptable as we are) as, for better or for worse, each generation has an increasing number of issues and perhaps less concern regarding privacy matters than the previous one. To the kids, it’s like, “You mean I can’t lose information? Cool!” as opposed to, “Who has access and what are they doing with it?” Maybe it’s just because they are young. Maybe.
There are certainly motivations to join and share all. However, you do not have to; and you should always use common sense while doing so.
And that is a keynote here; common sense seems to becoming more scarce.
By way of illustration, take mobile phones. Remember when it was going to be outlawed to take your mobile phone into a locker-room because it had a camera in it? What happened to that? Common sense. It became, if not impossible, impractical to enforce–and you only got one shot off before you discovered you should not be doing this (if you didn’t already know).
But when we turn to mobile applications and their threat to our private information, it is a different story–pretty much out of control. On Aug. 29, 2012 AppBrain, a leading Android review and statistics website, tabulated the number of apps currently in the Google Play Store at 511,188. Of these, a little more than one-quarter are what they refer to as ‘Low Quality Apps.’ On the same date, 148apps.biz reported the number of active apps, provided by 181,265 active publishers, in the U.S. Apple App Store at 717,112.
You just know that these are not all Fortune 500 companies—or even companies at all. Some are individuals writing code in the dark and, while they mean business, not necessarily in a good way for you. Always scour the permissions and ask yourself why a weather app needs access to your phone number/address book or, even worse, control of your device before you install it. If you don’t know how to do this yourself, ask someone who does. Do some research and due diligence. Remember the Trojan Horse? It happened because of naiveté, ignorance, and stupidity; not because of overwhelming cleverness by the other side.
So don’t post on your Facebook ‘timeline’ (which used to be called your ‘wall’), or elsewhere, matters that you will likely later regret if it comes to light on those not presupposed to be privy to your post. And don’t ‘friend’ everyone just to get your numbers up. This is a “game” of sorts but it’s not just for fun, it’s for always. You are not showing someone a picture and putting it back in your pocket so you can burn it later. It can potentially last forever, which brings us to the question …
How is your digital death plan coming along?
Bet you don’t have one. It’s likely that you don’t even know what I am talking about. Well, it’s something like cyberanthropology. It did not exist until recently and is still in its infancy for now. Many of us don’t even have a will, and shame on us, but as our digital persona(s) and related information become more fleshed out and animated, it is imperative that you ask who is going to have access to that when you die? Or is it to be cremated (so to speak) with you? Is your personal data in those digital vaults to be saved? Cherished and passed on? Or destroyed for (you hope) all time? Where are those accounts and passwords? This might not seem like a big deal now but it most certainly will—as it should—become one. There is no set protocol, and today it is just being made up as we go along, usually by the Terms of Service of each provider–but this will change. It’s been estimated that there are already approximately 30 million Facebook accounts belonging to people that have died.
If that does not make your head swivel, maybe you’re one of them?
And, speaking of Facebook, there is the ‘If I die’ app that can be used to reach out and touch someone from beyond the grave via a text, audio, or video message which will no doubt be (at the very least) kind of ‘creepy’ to some people. It is from an Israeli company and is one of their time-capsule products. You set up trustees, and upon their confirmation you have moved on, your ‘messages from beyond’ are posted for you. So be careful of your trustees and keep it current as you change your mind, or it may become an awkward exit. Other website businesses, some including apps, in a similar vein are GreatGoodbye and Dead Man’s Switch.
Then there are companies such as Entrustet, Legacy Locker, Lifenaut, and others to help you as a sort of ‘Digital Undertaker,’ by preserving or destroying information for generations to come. By way of example: Lifenaut assists you to “Upload biographical pictures, videos, and documents to a digital archive that will be preserved for generations”…[and to]…”Organize through geo mapping, timelines, and tagging, a rich portrait of information about you” basically creating online digital archives of all that you’ve done, seen, who you’ve met, etc… You can even upload genetic/DNA information! Whose digital vault are you in? And as if that’s not enough…
Notice the insidious creep of: This call may be monitored and/or recorded for quality assurance and/or training purposes.
At least they tell you; or some of them do. In Canada, we are what is referred to in the U.S. as a one-caller state. This means that only one person involved in a conversation can authorize and/or conduct a recording without it being illegal eavesdropping; and they don’t even have to tell you! That does not necessarily mean that they can publicly release and distribute their recording(s) consequence-free but that doesn’t put ‘Genie’ back in the bottle. Add to this the nanny cams, spycams, pen cams, clock cams, lighter cams, key cams (now in HD with, of course, pretty fine audio) and you get the idea.
In places like London, this is amplified by the fact that, within public spaces, you almost cannot get out of a camera’s view. Combine this with facial recognition software and geolocational tracking advances and there is no turning back.
As Mel Gibson’s character Jerry Fletcher should have said in Conspiracy Theory, “Just because I’m paranoid does not mean they are not out to get me!”
Or from 1998’s Enemy of the State where Will Smith’s character Robert Clayton Dean is just not getting it:
Robert Clayton Dean: Why are they after me?
Brill: You have something they want.
Robert Clayton Dean: I don’t have anything!
Brill: Maybe you do and you don’t know it.
Everything you say or do can and will be held against you in the court of life, if not law, and the former is the court that really matters; the other is usually just a minor subset.
Don’t take this as Chicken Little. I think that every one of us has won the grandest lottery of all, the lottery of life. When, over the course of history, would you rather be alive? However, unlike past generations, we are not going to live and die in a world and cultural milieu that is basically the same, start to finish. Our parents experienced great changes and ours have been even more revolutionary. And our children? Well, that will be a whole different quantum again.
One needs to at least consider the exponentiality of all this and ponder the consequent ramifications. IBM and HP took how long to get where they are? Microsoft 30 or so years, Apple (resurrected) really less than 20 years, Google 12 years, Facebook eight years, and Twitter just more than six. Where does that put us in 10 or 20 years from today? With at least some of the largest and most influential companies in the world at that time not even started in business yet, that’s where.
And just remember, while where you are is always important, what really matters is where you are going!
Or just call it the Borg – resistance is futile – and be done with it. If you don’t know what that means, look it up.
Otherwise just try to Keep Calm and Carry On. Any questions, call me.