Online privacy is not a given; it’s a luxury. To protect yourself you need to start by becoming aware of the various threats to your privacy and security. In this case I believe a little knowledge goes a very long way. As you’re about to find out, when it comes to the Internet it’s really not smart to trust anyone — individuals, of course, but also companies. Publishers employ ads that track casual readers (no account necessary), governments spy on their own citizens in the name of security, criminals hack away at personal information and companies who make apps and browser extensions sell user info on the cheap. This isn’t an article on how to protect your personal information, but rather an eye-opening look at why you need to protect your personal information in the first place. There are MANY more examples I could have included, these are just a few recent ones demonstrating how regular people are having their privacy violated — oftentimes without their knowledge or actual consent.
- High-profile iOS and Android apps are leaking your personal information. Researchers recently uncovered several well-known and heavily-used apps on both Android and iOS that are leaking personal information such as names, email addresses, location and even health data. Many of the apps are high-profile and it’s likely you’ve used or are currently using one of them. Here are just a few: Map My Walk and Map My Run, Nike+, Fruit Ninja, Pinterest, Walgreens and LocalScope. Where is your leaked info ending up? Facebook, Google and Yahoo are major endpoints, but there are also lots of anonymous sites receiving people’s info. Et tu Fruit Ninja? Source
- Your Chrome extensions are spying on you. Several Google Chrome extensions are making money by selling user’s information and browsing habits. This just goes to show that you can’t trust any company these days (except, perhaps, Apple) without doing your homework. Several popular Chrome extensions (with hundreds of thousands of installs) are collecting and selling information including, but not limited to: SpeakIt, ProxFlow, SuperBlock AdBlocker and SafeBrowse (just to name a few). And how much are they making off of you? About $0.04 per user per month. While your privacy may be priceless to you, it’s literally worth very little to most everybody else. Source
- The FBI can access your information without a warrant and without your knowledge. Using a tool called a National Security Letter (or NSL), the FBI can request the essence of your digital and physical footprint without the need for a warrant and without you ever knowing about it. From your Internet provider to your purchasing history to your screen names to address and billing information (and plenty more), an NSL can reveal your most personal electronic communications. NSLs are issued to banks, telecoms, credit agencies and travel agencies (and probably several other institutions). Source
- The police collect data from cell phones in secret using stingray devices. Police have been using devices known as stingrays to monitor calls made by suspects for years according to Wired. The problem is that they often do this in secret, without a warrant and the technology they use can sometimes collect information from other cell phones (and their owners) which aren’t officially being targeted. Source
- Google has been recording your voice (and so has Siri, Cortana and Alexa, probably). Google records your search history — you already knew that. But did you know that using, “OK, Google,” means that Google saves your voice searches as well? This information comes to us courtesy of The Guardian which reports that, thankfully, users can delete this info if they wish. Source
- Your iPhone may be less secure than an Android. Checkmarx published a recent study which found that 40% of iOS apps may leave users open to vulnerabilities both in terms of system stability and data protection vs 36% of Android apps. While your phone might be generally secure, these types of vulnerabilities potentially leave you open to exploits like “zero day” attacks which governments often pay large dollar amounts for. Source