Keep Big Brother away from Your Privacy!

Private PropertyTomorrow, Friday 28th (or today depending on your timezone) is the Data Privacy Day. Today’s technologies make our day so funny. Could you imagine going back to the eighties and live without Internet, mobile phones, GPS, social networks, credit cards?

Funny but so easy to divert and abuse. All services and devices generates tons of  data which  are very valuable and can be used sold to track you or build your profile. More and more people are using modern technologies and online services. Our children are born with a mobile phone or MP3 player in their hands! If Big Brother was just a novel character, it could be considered alive today. You want to test? Let’s make the following experience: During one day, every time you will perform a simple action, try to estimate its impact on your privacy.

Here are some examples from a normal business day:

07:30 – While eating a quick breakfast, you check your Gmail account and RSS feeds.
(Your emails are stored and indexed somewhere in multiple datacenters. Based on your mailbox and the feeds your subscribed to, Google builds your profile and will use it to display targeted ads)

08:00 – You leave your home and go to the office. Your city CCTV network catches you several times. Your car built-in GPS keeps your position in memory. Maybe your mobile phone has also a GPS chipset? You pay your parking by sending a SMS.
(You are caught by CCTV cameras everyday. Where are stored the recorded streams? Who has access to them. Some for the GPS, they keep track of your moves. Sending a SMS to pay your parking helps to locate you)

08:15 – You call a customer and left a message on his voicemail.
(Using triangulation, your mobile phone can be used to track your position. Where are located your voicemail messages? Like a mailbox, who can access it?)

09:00 – Arrived at the office, you swipe your badge to enter the building, you log in your computer and start working.
(Your access badge generates a record in the employee database. Once logged on your computer, all your actions can be tracked. The operating system keeps a trace of all your actions as well as the servers)

11:00 – You print a customer contract on the department printer.
(Hurry up, other people could read the document left on the printer. Modern printers have built-in hard drives which copy of printed documents).

12:00 – Going for lunch, you go to the nearest ATM machine to get some money.
(Again, caught by CCTV cameras, your company knows when you went out)

13:00 – Lunch pause, you visit your daily websites. Search for a nice holiday place. Add a comment on a friend’s Facebook wall. You won an eBay auction. Pay it via your Paypal account.
(What about the comments on Facebook? Can you really remove them? Where Paypal stores your credit card and personal information?)

18:00 – Back to home, you go to the supermarket. The cashier asks your postal code. All the goods are logged to your discount card.
(The discount cards helps companies to track your visit and your profile. Did you buy diapers? It means you have a baby. They will target their marketing campaign)

20:00 – Party time, a friend posts some pictures of you on his wall.
(You were drunk and pictures are automatically indexed. What about the metadata in the file? Pictures contain lot of technical information like GPS positions, time stamps)

Those are just examples. About CCTV, the city of London is known to have a huge number of cameras (1 CCTV camera for every 8 people, some people are filmed 300 times a day). It is of course impossible to evade all those controls and some could be helpful in helping to find missing people. But, your privacy is sometimes abused for commercial purposes and this is unacceptable. Try to be aware and do not disclose your private life “for free”. It’s also a good initiative to perform some awareness to vulnerable groups like children and old people. Remember “A happy life is a discreet one.”

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