The Privacy Myth

I have a friend who refuses to load free apps on his phone because they will be data-mining information from his phone on a constant basis.

Yeah, so?

If there is anyone left on the planet with an Internet connection who believes for one instant that he or she is in control of the online experience, I don’t know who or where they may be. The rest of us know full well that we abrogated our privacy rights a long time ago, trading them for the conveniences that connectivity provides, trusting that while information is most certainly being gathered, that information is not tied specifically to the identity of any given individual.

Yeah, right.

If that were the case, immediately after I buy a widget from the Widget Company, I would not be pummeled with ads to buy more Widget Company widgets.

Which is kind of dumb in the first place, since I already have my widget. Aren’t they smart enough to use an Amazon-like algorithm that predicts what else I might like?

But I digress.

It is up to each of us to decide whether the information provided by, say, Flickster is worth the constant invasion of privacy. But I would submit that using an app like Flickster is not going to do very much harm now, because the harm has already been done. The Internet knows all about you. And that knowledge is for sale. And there is nothing you can do about it.

Most of the time, if you’re willing to overlook the whole invasion-of-privacy thing, the process is fairly benign. Sure, they know where you live and how you spend your money and how you spend your free time and how old you are and how many kids you have and how long you’ve been married and the number of gallons you sweat when you eat Szechuan food. . .but they’ve known all that stuff for a really long time anyway.

Unfortunately, the same code that creates this surface-level invasion can be used to probe a lot deeper: what your household income is and how much you spend on Chocolate Joe-Joe’s and your mother’s maiden name and the last four of your social and all your credit-card information. And you have no way of knowing who has this information and what they might do with it.

I’m sorry, but all the assurances proffered by the websites and social media we frequent have proved to be meaningless. Those websites and social media—a.k.a. “the enemy”—are much too sophisticated for even the most proficient cybersecurity wonk to know for sure what they are up to in the darkest recesses of their platforms.

But have no fear, the government is going to oversee the activities of Facebook, Instagram and the whole lot. Your safety is their most immediate concern.

Yeah, right.

The European Union is on the right track with its GDPR (Global Data Protection Regulation) initiative. The fines for violating the regulation are very stiff—so stiff, in fact, that many websites and social media are curtailing their activities in the EU.

That’s all well and good, but there is no evidence that the people who are policing the GDPR have figured out how to figure out what data is being mined at the deepest level.

So, for now, enjoy Flickster, secure in the knowledge that nothing is secure.