Friday, May 24, 2024

Does Online Privacy Actually Exist Anymore?

Data such as conversations, photos, finances, or other personal information can never be completely private in the digital age.

It’s easy to look up people online and find out information about them; even more, than they know is available.

Various world governments assure us that data privacy is of utmost importance, often as a re-election platform. Despite that, tech companies like Facebook and agencies like the CIA are often in the news for breaching citizens’ privacy.

Is your online data really safe?

Over 50% of Americans claim they don’t trust tech companies or the government to keep their online data private.

Who Can See Your Data

Almost anybody can access another person’s data if they know where to look.

Marketers

Ads are targeted to you based on your online activity. Google searches, Amazon pages visited, and Facebook ads that you click on all indicate these are your ‘preferences’ and allow marketers to know more about you.

People Search Sites

Many people are unaware that data brokers — people search sites — have databases of information about them. These perfectly legitimate companies scrape the internet for available information. Public domain, property and motor vehicle sales and purchases, and court records, are some places they get data.

Anyone can enter your name into a people search site and find out this information about you in seconds.

Tech Companies

Prior to 2010, when it was successfully sued, Google would scan its users’ emails ‘for the purpose of marketing.’

Facebook faced its own legal problems in 2013 when it was accused of reading people’s private messages to each other.

Police and Government Agencies

With the proper documented access — or sometimes without — the police have tools that can get behind firewalls and other defensive software to access a person’s data. Usually, these actions are only done if they suspect criminal activity. However, there are news reports of the CIA listening in to people via a software bug on Samsung TVs, for example.

Hackers

Even if consumers think their data is private, if a hacker wants access, they can get it. Online scams like phishing are getting more sophisticated, and even people on the lookout for them can be fooled.

Data breaches caused by hackers are on the rise. More than 4,000 of these happened in 2022 and were made public; countless weren’t.

Is the Consumer to Blame?

Every day we ‘allow’ businesses to use our data. Switching on your smartphone’s location settings lets the service provider and the government know where you are every second of the day.

Ads are everywhere we browse. As a way to reduce or at least show relevant ads, we allow sites to monitor our online activities to tailor them for us.

As mentioned earlier, if people search sites can access any public domain information, that means anyone else can. Many transactions have an online footprint that can be viewed by anyone who wants to. By engaging in these actions, we’re permitting others to know what we’re doing.

Tech companies argue that if we permit them access, how can we then turn around and complain about privacy?

Can Anything Be Done?

Governments are being petitioned to step in and do more to protect people’s online privacy. Tech companies are being taken to task, as is evident from the successful lawsuits of the second decade of the 2000s.

If law-enforcement agencies and hackers still have freereign to mine peoples’ data, it’s extremely difficult to police. More advanced software tools are being designed to allow for deeper breaches.

People still allow their online footprints to be tracked, making it challenging to impose restrictions.

Data Privacy Doesn’t Exist

Despite government reassurance, our data isn’t really private.

Marketers have access to a load of our data because we allow it. People search sites compile databases on us without us knowing. Tech companies have been accessing people’s online behavior for years.

Government agencies and the police have the tools to dig deeper if required. Hackers can access data if they really want it.

By completing transactions online or allowing sites or apps to know our movements, it appears foolish to turn around and complain about a lack of privacy.

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Balaji
Balaji
BALAJI is an Ex-Security Researcher (Threat Research Labs) at Comodo Cybersecurity. Editor-in-Chief & Co-Founder - Cyber Security News & GBHackers On Security.

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