Last Monday, a program called “De Grote Privacy Test” (the big privacy test) was broadcasted on Dutch television (www.NPO.nl). The program researches if the participants and the people at home know the risks of the invasion of privacy and online criminality. It reveals a lot about how much information is gathered about you and what is done with it. This is a big social problem. The producers want as much information as they can from the people who use their products so they can use it for their own purposes (and services). The users, of course, want to use the product but definitely don’t want an invasion of privacy!
It all starts when you buy or download a product: The Terms and Conditions. The never-ending list of vague text that everyone accepts without even looking at it. The Producers know this. It enables them to do almost everything, the customers will always agree because they don’t want to read the long lists. It enables them to use your camera, microphone, see all of your unprotected information and sometimes even download things! This brings insecurity and invasion of privacy.
The terms and conditions of iTunes are as long as the book: “Je hebt wél iets te verbergen” which has 264 pages!
Besides checking boxes and agreeing with terms and conditions, there are several other ways in which information from electronic devices can be ‘stolen’. For example: in the program “De Grote Privacy Test” a hacker, called Wouter Slotboom, showed a router he had bought. Everyone who connected to the WI-FI of this router got tracked and all the information gathered and used in those devices was from then available for him. He could see Instagram pictures, chats, web searches and even passwords!
The invention of social media worsened the situation enormously. A lot of things are shared and so, a lot of things can be found. Even things you delete can be copied or recovered.
The information that sites, apps, programs and other services or products gather can be used for advertisement, recommendations, predicting things and more. This sounds great, but when google tells me the traffic information on my route to school while I never searched for it, I get scared. How does it know that? What more does it know? I can’t tell this exactly, but it is sure that services like google know more than they probably should. All of this information could easily be misused. Think of this: someone has seen your information. He or she knows what phone you have and wants it. He knows when and how you drive to school in the morning. Easy catch, I would say.
I know you probably aren’t going to read the terms and conditions and you probably aren’t going to disagree with them either. So here 4 simple things that you can do to prevent some of these privacy invasions.
- Using ad Blocker: Besides stopping ads from popping up on your screen, it also stops a lot of cookies and unwanted trackers from gathering and using your information.
- When you use Google Chrome, you can enable ‘Incognito modus’. This will erase everything you do on the internet when you don’t use it anymore. This does not include photos, comments or other similar things you post but things like cookies, browsing history etc.
- Watch out with what you do on the internet: be cautious with what you write, post and do online. Also: have a look at your privacy settings on your browser and social media.
- Try searching safe alternatives for your social media. For example, Signal. It does the same as WhatsApp but it is privacy friendlier. Why leave WhatsApp? Well, it was bought by Facebook, which means that a lot of information can be used, just as on Facebook. (related article: “Facebook sued for invading users’ privacy” at http://www.Yahoo.com)
In conclusion, the internet knows a lot about you. Often too much. The upcoming of social media has greatly reduced privacy and your information is easily being misused or even being hacked! Terms and conditions are too long and are often misapplicated. They include all kinds of ways in which to collect personal data. This data is used or sold to other companies while it isn’t necessary for the service to work. In the 21st century, privacy seems to have disappeared. But we have to protect it, since it is not only a constitutional right but also a very big factor in our lives.
Author: Rick van de Sande