Privacy and technology: Is technology doing away with our privacy?

More individuals now rely on the numerous services that smartphones may offer as a result of its introduction. However, unencrypted data can reveal your location and past activities to nearly anybody. When do convenience needs take precedence over privacy concerns?  

People were incensed when it was revealed that Apple iPhones were monitoring our locations. When everything was said and done, it became clear that some of the fury was unwarranted; Apple claimed that the data is gathered anonymously. However, the revelation has reopened the conversation about technology and privacy and made us re-evaluate our own personal boundaries.

How location services work

Apple maintains a database of Wi-Fi networks that it utilises to calculate your position and show you instructions or what’s nearby. Therefore, if three nearby hotspots connect to your Apple device, Apple pinpoints your current position to the closest IP address.

Devices like the iPhone use location-based services to track your locations and then store that information on your device in an insecure file format. If you connect your device to any computer, that computer will have access to your data. Anyone who discovers your lost device will be able to know where you’ve been during the last year since the operating system with this feature was introduced.

Location-based services are a huge convenience

It sounds awful, doesn’t it? Consider the subject from a different angle: Users of mobile devices desire the location services they offer. Apple claims that it was only meeting the rising demand from customers for location-based services like discovering friends or eateries. Who hasn’t been hungry, lost, or nearly out of gas? In these circumstances, cell phones with location services can practically save your life.

Location-based services aren’t the only ways you are tracked

The great majority of individuals voluntarily broadcast at least some personal information—by creating a social media profile or making an online purchase, to name just two examples—even if some of your information, albeit anonymous, may be monitored without your awareness. You are monitored in one way or another each time you log in to browse the internet. Here are a few illustrations:

  • Internet service providers (ISPs). Services such as AT&T/Yahoo, Comcast, or EarthLink, can match your personal details with your unique internet address. Some ISPs have been known to monitor your online activity to target you for certain advertisements
  • Search queries. ISPs and/or search engine companies can track and save consumer search queries
  • Cookies. Web pages you visit can download cookies onto your machine that track your browsing history
  • Operating systems. Your own computer logs data of your Internet use. If your machine is exposed to a third party—legitimately or not—that party can learn the websites you frequent, the time of day you are likey to read emails, and with which banks you hold accounts

And some people don’t care at all about privacy, broadcasting their whereabouts openly and constantly via Facebook or Foursquare.

U.S. laws to protect personal information cannot keep pace with advances in technology

In order to safeguard people’s privacy, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) was passed in 1986. It was rapidly put to the test by new technologies. The privacy of such conversations is undermined if a user agrees or if the government issues a legitimate subpoena to the Internet service provider, despite the fact that it is illegal for an ISP to disclose information from electronic communications. For instance, there are less constraints on government information collecting if information is obtained in accordance with the 2001 PATRIOT Act.

Despite the fact that many privacy advocates call for strong government control, technology nevertheless advances far more quickly than the legislative process. Some contend that the only practical method to protect privacy is through coregulation between the government and the technology sector.

What you can do to protect your personal information

You can take measures to restrict the type and volume of electronic data gathered on you if you are worried about privacy.

You may disable location services on mobile devices by going to the settings menu. When you sync your smartphone with your computer, you may additionally encrypt data backups. In case your gadget is ever lost or stolen, it’s a good idea to secure it with a password.

You may frequently delete the cache on PCs to get rid of your surfing history. Additionally, cookies, which transmit data to and from your device to an origin browser, can be turned off. Expect a decrease in convenience in return for these security measures, too, since your device and computer will be less able to cater to your specific preferences and slower to provide search results without a recall of previous searches, activities, and preferences. This implies that if you spend ten minutes looking for a website, clear your cache, and then go back to it later, you might have to conduct a new search.

The way we perceive privacy must change as technology gives us more and more advantages.